Building a stronger Dal community for equity, diversity and inclusion

- December 5, 2017

HRES campaigns and programs (clockwise from top left) the Elephant in the Room, Pride Week, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and Respect Week. (Provided images)
HRES campaigns and programs (clockwise from top left) the Elephant in the Room, Pride Week, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and Respect Week. (Provided images)

Building a more diverse and inclusive Dal community is a responsibility shared by all of us across the university. But there’s no doubt that Human Rights and Equity Services (HRES) has a crucial role to play.

Here’s an overview of just some of the HRES-related projects and initiatives underway related to diversity and inclusion on campus.

A new senior position devoted to equity and inclusion

Dr. Arig al Shaibah, vice-provost student affairs. has held the role of acting executive director responsible for overseeing HRES and its mission for the past year.

However, the university will soon be welcoming a new university advisor & asistant vce-president, equity and inclusion. The search for the UA/AVP, equity & inclusion is underway.

The inaugural UA/AVP, equity & inclusion position will report directly to the provost & vice-president academic and, in addition to overseeing HRES, will be responsible for leading Dal’s Diversity & Inclusiveness Strategy, which will succeed the work of the current 5.2 Strategic Priority co-leads and project team.

Significant organizational revitalization

“It has been a time of significant revitalization for HRES and prioritization of equity and inclusion,” says Dr. al Shaibah.

HRES has a new strategic framework, established last year, focusing on the unit’s mission, which is in full alignment with the university’s strategic plan.

HRES also has more people: staff complement of the office has essentially doubled. It now includes: a director, who also provides discrimination advising; a personal harassment/conflict advisor; a sexual violence advisor; an education advisor; a coordinator for intake and administration; and an equity data analyst.

The unit is also engaging in policy review. Dal’s Employment Equity Policy has been renewed, approved in October. A draft Sexual Violence Policy is in the campus consultation phase, expected to replace the Sexual Harassment Policy. Review of the Employee Accommodation Policy is being finalized and the Discrimination and Personal Harassment Policies are slated for review.

A new database has been created to more adequately track and report on complaints, and a report on aggregated complaint statistics will be published annually.

A new home

Renovations will be commencing soon to make accessible a three-storey house on LeMarchant Street, which will be dedicated to Human Rights & Equity Services. There will be space for educational programming, offices for the director and all advisors, a meeting room, lounge, reception and kitchenette.

The HRES staff is expected to occupy the space early in the new year, with renovations, including accessible entrance and washrooms, beginning in the spring.

Programming for systemic change

While this change is underway, the HRES team continues to provide confidential advising support, create opportunities for learning and discussion, and community engagement in equity and inclusion initiatives.

The personal harassment/conflict advisor works collaboratively with the office of the university ombudperson, the organizational health unit in human resources, and the student conduct office in student affairs to offer proactive conflict resolution coaching and support, as well as responsive advising for personal harassment complaints.

The education advisor and team of peer educators help coordinate several events and campaigns each year. These include Dalhousie Pride Week, Respect Week, activities aligned with African Heritage and Mi’kmaq History Months and, happening right now, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

The Elephant in the Room is a diversity and inclusion conversation series that offers space for participants to share insights, ask questions, and hear different perspectives around issues of diversity.

The PEGaSUS program is a supportive space open to all genders of students who have experienced sexual assault as adults. It’s a safe space to connect and offer mutual support and group education. Different from a purely self-help or therapeutic group, PEGaSUS is a 10-week program co-facilitated by the director and sexual violence advisor. Its next session begins in January.

“HRES is a central resource for members of the Dal community who have experienced harassment, discrimination, or sexual violence,” says Dr. al Shaibah. “It’s also a focal point for leadership in shifting the campus climate – fostering  respectful, equitable and inclusive environments through education, training and advising community members at all levels of the university.”

Learn more: Human Rights & Equity Services website


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