York launches online training hub to support equity, diversity and inclusion in research and search committees

Two students looking at a computer monitor

York University has launched Places of Online Learning for the Adjudication of Researchers Inclusively and Supportively (POLARIS), an online asynchronous education and learning hub to foster equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the adjudication of professors in research and search committees.

POLARIS is offered through a collaboration of the Offices of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, Vice-President Equity, Peoples and Culture and the Provost’s Office.

POLARIS allows professors to complete six core online modules on EDI for faculty adjudications that can be completed at their own pace. Faculty members who serve on search committees will also be required to submit a pre-module exercise, go through a seventh module on York search procedures and policies, and attend a synchronous online meeting with the Affirmative Action, Equity and Inclusivity Officer Tania Das Gupta and EDI Program Manager Christal Chapman.

This training will not be required by any search committee currently underway; however, it will be required for members of search committees and Vice-President Research & Innovation awards adjudication committees that begin their work after September 2022. Other University committees that adjudicate professors for awards at department, Faculty, or pan-University levels, can also access EDI training with POLARIS for their committee members before taking on their own faculty adjudications.

Rebecca Pillai Riddell
Rebecca Pillai Riddell

“POLARIS was inspired by a need for change by creating a system that invites research excellence from people who are typically overlooked and disadvantaged when it comes to research opportunities in academia,” says Rebecca Pillai Riddell, POLARIS Chair. “This platform creates a user-friendly journey that addresses challenges that adjudicators face when navigating the awards and faculty search process and provides a fulsome approach to hiring and adjudication.”

Certificates will be issued to professors and recorded to confirm their completion. Participants are encouraged to add this training to their CVs. POLARIS is available today for all York faculty and staff involved in research adjudication who would like to upgrade their EDI education right away and be able to pace out the core six modules, approximately two hours in total, over the spring and summer.

Each module is designed to support each step of the adjudication of faculty, from thinking about a unit’s readiness to hire or adjudicate awards from diverse faculty, to evaluating CVs and job interviews, to what needs to be done to build a more inclusive faculty adjudication system. Each module has four parts, including a personal narrative, a guidance video, a conflicts and challenges video, and a downloadable written summary for learners to keep.

“Excellence in research is founded on ideas and knowledge that come from people with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences,” says Sheila Cote-Meek, vice-president People, Equity & Culture. “POLARIS creates a stepping stone for EDI in research hiring and adjudication and will play an important role in supporting the University’s long-term goals and ongoing work in addressing the many forms of bias and discrimination in research and search committees.”

In addition, to help support the EDI practices of faculty, the Diversity Composition Report Generator application can be found on POLARIS site. This application allows faculty to request a report on the diversity of their search committee or adjudication committee, to integrate more tailored inclusivity strategies and consider the overall diversity of their research team or committee. The report is automatically generated through a process that respects the privacy and confidentiality of respondents on committees.

A workshop will be hosted and archived in the Research Commons to help professors and research staff learn about how the new training could improve their adjudication processes on May 9 at 2 p.m. Register for the workshop online.

“POLARIS provides a holistic approach to EDI training that is intended to underpin the work of search committees and research award adjudication committees to foster better awareness and education of their role in EDI,” says Amir Asif, vice-president research & innovation. “POLARIS will help initiate large-scale transformative and structural changes to the way York hires and adjudicates research opportunities.”

“York is a leading international teaching and research university, and a driving force for positive change,” says Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic. “Through POLARIS, which offers rich and informative tools and videos, we can better support our faculty and through more inclusive adjudication, and ultimately better serve the York community.”

POLARIS was made possible by an EDI Stipend from the Canada Research Chairs Secretariat and matching funds by York University. It will be maintained by the Offices of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation and the Vice-President, Equity, Peoples & Culture.
Members of the POLARIS Leadership Committee:

  • Rebecca Pillai Riddell, POLARIS director, professor (Faculty of Health) and special advisor to the President for Faculty Relations and Equity
  • Ali Abdul-Sater, assistant professor, Faculty of Health
  • Annette Boodram, EDI program manager, Vice-President Equity, People & Culture
  • Abigail Vogus, strategic and institutional research specialist, Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation
  • Brad Meisner, associate professor, Faculty of Health
  • Carl James, professor (Faculty of Education), senior advisor on Equity and Representation to the Vice-President Equity Peoples and Culture
  • Denielle A. Elliott, deputy director, Tubman Institute, and associate professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Services
  • Elaine Coburn, director, Centre for Feminist Research and associate professor, Glendon Campus
  • Evan Light, associate professor, Glendon Campus
  • Ethel Tungohan, associate professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
  • Paulina Karwowska-Desaulniers, director, Research Priorities and Partnerships, Research & Graduate Studies, Lassonde School of Engineering
  • Raymond A. Mar, professor, Faculty of Health
  • Susan Dion, professor (Faculty of Education) and associate vice-president Indigenous Initiatives
  • Alyson Nemeth, POLARIS operations manager