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Cluster Hiring Initiative aims to hire professors from equity deserving groups 

By Nazeefa Ahmed, November 29 2022

The University of Calgary has launched the “Inclusive Excellence Cluster Hiring Initiative” which aims to hire 45 professors over the next three years from equity-deserving groups to help advance equity, diversity and inclusion at the university. 

“We see this commitment as important to meet the needs of an ever-more diverse and rapidly changing society and as an opportunity to harness the ideas, knowledge, skills and experiences that people from different backgrounds and perspectives bring to our campuses,” reads a statement on their website

The initiative was informed by the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Data Report, which gathered data and analyzed the representation of four groups — women, racialized minorities, Indigenous individuals, and persons with disabilities — among the university teaching and research staff. Among other statistics, the report found that 19.4 per cent of professors, instructors, teachers, or researchers were racialized minorities and two per cent were Indigenous. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Vice Provost of Research (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Malinda Smith spoke about the importance of publicly releasing the findings from the EDI report so that people can understand the reasoning behind the initiative. 

“We made a commitment there to provide data transparency,” said Smith. “We want everyone in our community on campus to understand equity gaps, but also our commitment to closing those gaps.”

“Cluster hiring has the advantage of hiring multiple professors at the same time,” said Smith. 

“We create a critical mass of scholars we think will enhance the student experience, provide support for each other, strengthen our research and teaching excellence and allow us to introduce knowledge and different ways of knowing in the Academy. It will increase mentoring and role models so that people can see themselves reflected in their professors.” 

Smith contests the term “diversity hire” to describe this initiative claiming that this is a surface-level belief that incorrectly makes diversity and meritocracy opponents of each other. 

“This prejudice comes from people who assume that excellence is situated in a single demographic group,” said Smith. “This belief is not informed by research, and it comes from people who believe in deficit thinking. The antagonism between equity and excellence is precisely why we need to have a robust commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility at the University of Calgary to combat that kind of bias through EDI data literacy.”

As of 2019, Calgary is the third most diverse city in Canada, after Toronto and Vancouver. There are an estimated 240 different ethnic origins and 120 languages spoken in the city. Smith believes that the university should reflect the diversity of the city, and claims that a diverse range of professors will bring valuable perspectives that will benefit the institution. 

“Having professors and students and staff from these diverse backgrounds, as seen in research, makes us smarter, enhances our critical thinking, and allows us to better deal with the diversity of the world,” said Smith. “Our university at the moment does not reflect the diversity of our student body and our population broadly as a city.

“Outside the academy, there is no place, no other sector, that provides the opportunity for so many people from so many different backgrounds to work together, to learn together, to live together like a university,” Smith continued. “It is an innovation and creativity incubator for our students. This inclusive access to the hiring initiative, in my view, will allow our students to benefit from this rich intellectual diversity that we will be bringing to our campus.”

More information about the Inclusive Excellence Cluster Hiring Initiative, including the EDI Data report, can be found on the U of C website.

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