Learn about York’s first Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Drone image shows Vari Hall and the Ross Building on Keele Campus

York University will release its first Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEDI) Strategy this spring and, beginning March 13, community members will have an opportunity to learn more about the strategy. An overview of the five strategic directions – teaching and learning, research and innovation, representation and success, campus climate and environment, and leadership and capacity building – and the DEDI flower graphic that encapsulates the strategy are now available on the DEDI website.

DEDI flower graphic from centre outward represents the York campus Community, the five strategic directions (red), the four University strategies and plans that are connected to the DEDI strategy (blue) and the 12 principles (grey)
DEDI flower graphic from centre outward represents the York campus Community, the five strategic directions (red), the four University strategies and plans that are connected to the DEDI strategy (blue) and the 12 principles (grey)

Community consultation

The President’s Advisory Council on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (the Council) and the Office of the Vice-President Equity, People and Culture began work on the strategy in Fall of 2020. Over two-and-a-half years, the almost 50-member council met monthly to lead the development and implementation of a strategy that would formalize and coordinate DEDI efforts across the University. In Spring 2022, York released its draft Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy, gathering feedback through presentations, a University survey, facilitated feedback sessions and invited written response. A broad representation of the York community which included academic staff, non-academic staff, undergraduate and graduate students were engaged in the feedback process.

“We are proud of the DEDI strategy and the work that was done to incorporate the feedback from the community. Centering people in the strategy and ensuring that they felt seen is an important step towards our commitment to foster an equitable, diverse, and inclusive community, where everyone feels they belong,” said Sheila Cote-Meek, vice-president equity, people and culture. “I would like to thank the Council for their leadership and diligent work on the DEDI strategy as well as the York community for their participation.”

Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

During the feedback period, the Council formed a sub-committee on decolonizing the EDI Strategy to review and suggest revisions to the strategy through a decolonizing lens. The Council agreed to add “Decolonizing” to the title of the strategy in order to acknowledge that decolonization must come first in order to practice the principals of equity, diversity and inclusion. York University is among the first post-secondary institutions in Canada to include decolonization in a meaningful and thoughtful way within a DEDI strategy.

“Working towards equity, diversity and inclusion requires that we also acknowledge the settler-colonial history of the country,” said Professor Carl James, Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education at York University and senior advisor on equity and representation. “Hence, the expectation here is that we approach the work we do with a decolonial framework. It means taking into account how race has operated in that colonial settlement in the lives of Indigenous people and used in the transportation of African people to the country and in determining who would be allowed to immigrate to the country, when, and for what purpose.”

DEDI Strategy strategic directions

The five strategic directions that will provide focus for enabling activities as well as how people can take up the work include:

  • Teaching and Learning – York University will cultivate inclusive teaching and learning environments that nurture multiple and intersectional ways of knowing, including the incorporation of DEDI principles in curriculum and programs.
  • Research and Innovation – York University will cultivate inclusive and equitable research environments that nurture multiple and intersectional ways of knowing, create and nurture diverse research teams, and encourage research programs in traditionally equity-deserving settings.
  • Representation and Success – Through a range of efforts across the University, York will work to build an environment that is representative of the communities it serves by actively recruiting, supporting, retaining and advancing students, faculty, instructors and staff from equity-deserving communities.
  • Leadership and Capacity Building – York University strives to be a community where all members demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate through and lead in a diverse world. York commits to building capacity in its leadership to advance DEDI for today, tomorrow and the future.
  • Campus Climate and Environment – York University will work towards creating an inclusive and equitable community where everyone has the potential to feel a sense of belonging and that they are respected. The University will undertake initiatives to enhance the accessibility of physical and virtual spaces for students, staff, faculty and instructors.

The complete DEDI strategy will be launched in May, and will include a glossary, the principles which guided the strategy and key initiatives, actions and benchmarks recommended to enable the plan. Phase one of a toolkit for community members, which will focus on one’s personal journey and understanding of DEDI terms and concepts, is in development and expected to launch in late summer.

For more information on the DEDI strategy, visit the webpage.