EDI and Racial Justice

Initiatives to bring EDI into post-secondary institutions often focus on gestures such as including EDI statements on hiring job ads, asking job candidates to discuss diversity in their job materials or providing anti-bias training to hiring and search committees. Feminist and Black scholars have critiqued the institutionalization of diversity and related concepts, such as intersectionality, for domesticating the radical and transformative critical work of these concepts. For instance, Jennifer C. Nash argues, “The work of diversity … is not meant to transform social institutions but to insert bodies into existing structures and even to engage in ‘rebranding an organization’” (2019, 24). Similarly, research on racism in higher education illustrates how inclusive strategies risk exposing racialized faculty to forms of institutional betrayal (Dutt-Ballerstadt 2020). Despite critiques over the impact these initiatives have had on the widescale restructuring of our post-secondary institutions, or worse—compounding harm for marginalized faculty and students (see Ahmed 2012; Nash 2019) and simply re-centring hegemonic norms—EDI is currently the primary language used by universities to address systemic inequalities. In this way, scholars have called for us to engage in the institution in continued projects for systemic change and transformation (Wiegman 2016, 93 [PDF]).

Calls for equity, diversity, and inclusion are also found within pedagogy and curriculum through calls to diversify curriculum, ensure representation of marginalized and historically excluded groups, and integrate diverse perspectives, knowledge systems, and scholarship from outside the dominant frameworks shaping academic disciplines.

EDI in Pedagogical and Curriculum Design

Although EDI achievements in the university sector are often legible through the diversification of staffing or student enrolment in programs, the biggest challenge universities continue to face is the structural forms of exclusion that are embedded in our institutions through minor changes made in individual hiring and recruitment strategies, and little change to the structures of power and governance that maintain hegemonic control over university administration, complaints processes, evaluation, etc. This is reflected in racially homogenous university administrative bodies; disregard for student, staff, and faculty experiences of racism, ableism, transphobia, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression; and the cultural norms that underpin notions of academic collegiality that set marginalized and historically excluded faculty, students and staff as the problem when voicing concerns and complaints (Ahmed 2012). For instance, in Meghan Gagliardi’s (2024) research on racialized students who take on anti-racism work within institutions, she found that Black and other racialized students are made responsible for the work of anti-racism within higher education settings precisely because anti-racism work has not been made a collective responsibility. For Gagliardi, this has resulted in compounding harm for those most impacted by racism.

What EDI looks like in Pedagogical and Curriculum Design:

Incorporating EDI into your pedagogical practices and curriculum design includes (but is not limited to):

  • Conducting curriculum audits to review EDI in academic programs;
  • Developing syllabi with diverse authors;
  • Integrating community-based perspectives into classroom learning;
  • Engaging with knowledge outside of scholarly mediums (e.g. community-based, social movements, social media, etc.);
  • Developing new courses and programs with historically excluded groups in focus;
  • Hiring faculty and staff specialized in EDI areas and with lived experience to guide curriculum development and revision;
  • Using a diverse range of assessment models to meet the different needs and address the barriers that students face;
  • Teaching from the perspectives of those historically excluded from academic knowledge production; and
  • Integrating student feedback into curriculum design, particularly in areas identified by students as being absent from the program curriculum.

Name Pronunciation

Like respectful practices around gender pronoun use in the classroom (see section Gender and Pronouns), using the proper pronunciation of people’s names is an important component of ensuring inclusive classrooms and addressing some of the quotidian ways that racism can be enacted in everyday interactions in educational settings. Although it can be difficult to pronounce names in languages one might not be familiar with, the key to respectful interactions is to learn the proper pronunciation of names, practice pronunciation, and develop effective strategies for when you make a mistake.

Consider the following points as better practices of pronunciation and engagement with names in languages you may not be familiar with:

  1. Don’t assign someone a new name or shorten someone’s name to facilitate your pronunciation. Assigning an English name or nickname to a student or colleague can be insulting and a form of racial microaggression.
  2. If someone shares a nickname or alternative name for you to use, you can use this name; however, most people appreciate the effort colleagues or teachers make to learn to pronounce their actual names.
  3. If you are struggling with pronouncing someone’s name, use strategies to help yourself practice proper pronunciation. For instance, record yourself or someone else pronouncing the person’s name, and play the recording back privately to help you practice.
  4. Look for pronunciation guides online and confirm the correct guidelines for the person in question.
Remember: the more frequently you use people’s names, the easier it becomes to adopt proper pronunciation.

If you make a mistake pronouncing someone’s name, apologize and adjust your pronunciation. If you are really struggling with pronunciation, you can also let the person know that you’ll practice pronunciation, thank them for their patience, and invite them and others to correct you if you make a mistake (if they feel comfortable doing so).

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Better Practices in the Classroom by Natalie Kouri-Towe and Myloe Martel-Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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