Diversity Fund put towards student consultation

The “Commitment to Diversity Fund” that was launched last November is being used to finance the review process that will make recommendations about the fund’s future designation. The $300,000 put into the fund this year will support the review process.

The Equity and Inclusion office, which is conducting the review, is doing three main things to inform themselves — a literature review, data analysis and consultation.

During the literature review, they found that a strong mission statement, leadership in the area of diversity and a strategic plan concerning diversity are particularly important.

They have also placed a focus on data from the Undergraduate Experience Survey.

“There [was] demographic data that was collected which we were then able to look at in relation to the questions that were asked in the Undergraduate Experience Survey,” said Sara-Jane Finlay, associate VP Equity and Inclusion.

In particular, the survey found less of a sense of belonging from LGBT students, students with a mental health condition, commuter students, Korean students — both international and domestic — and students with significant debt. It also found that these students, along with Indigenous and African students, had less satisfaction with their academic experience.

Finlay said that while they did gather information on socioeconomic status, this was not identified as a key finding of the survey.

However, socioeconomic status was one of the main things that the AMS hoped the fund would focus on, given it was launched in response to their concern about the rise in international tuition fees and the impact it may have on diversity at UBC.

“We recognize and acknowledge that belonging on campus is a very important aspect of enjoying and feeling right here at UBC, but we would still like to see a more even focus on recruitment of students of more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds like we had asked before,” said Samantha So, the AMS’s VP Academic.

“That’s not to say that we’re disappointed in it. We still do look forward to working with the fund in its current form and direction, but we see room for it to focus on recruitment of diverse students.”

The university is currently focusing on consulting with the groups the survey identified as feeling less satisfied with UBC.

“We really want to get their reflections on their experience at UBC, what barriers they’ve encountered in terms of their success, their well-being, their sense of belonging, their sense of support. We want to know what’s worked well for them, and what hasn’t worked well for them [and] what suggestions they would have about making any changes,” said Finlay.

The consultation is being spearheaded by Robert Daum, who, according to his website, is a researcher and practitioner with a focus on transcultural dialogue and interdisciplinary collaboration. Consultation sessions are led, however, by a diverse team of eight UBC undergraduate students who have been trained to facilitate dialogue.

In terms of where the fund will go, Finlay noted that given it is still in the consultation phase, conclusions cannot yet be drawn.

“I don’t want to presuppose what we’ll be recommending at the end of it,” she said. “I think the thing is where we hear specific areas of concern, we’re going to make recommendations around surrounding that.”

Currently, Finlay hopes that the framework, guidelines and priorities for the fund will go to the Board of Governors in April. However, this will not necessarily mean these guidelines will be set in stone.

“Really, we’re only looking at the next couple of years, and then at that point, we would want to revisit [and] make sure that they’re still where we want to be,” said Finlay.

One million dollars will be put towards the fund in 2017 to 2018, and two million every year after.