The Working Circle report envisions a future where all members of the UTSC community will thrive; where our students will see the richness of their experiences fully reflected and valued in their education; where inclusive excellence in curriculum, teaching, and learning at UTSC is grounded in equitable, accessible, anti-racist, and anti-colonial structures and processes; where Black and Indigenous excellence are anchored and flourishing; and where truth and awareness of treaty obligations and responsibilities have prompted accountability, relationship, and reconciliation.
The 56 recommended actions presented by the Working Circle emerged out of our outreach and listening process and extend over the following categories:
- Curriculum Development
- Pedagogical Development and Related Supports
- Dedicated Academic Homes, Programs, and Spaces for Indigenous and Black Excellence at UTSC
- Faculty, Librarian, and Staff Hiring
- Community Engagement
- Institutional Structures and Supports
- Future of the Working Circle and Foundations for Implementation
Campus Curriculum Review - FAQ
A key priority of U of T Scarborough’s 2020-25 Strategic Plan, Inspiring Inclusive Excellence, is to ensure that the campus’s commitment to inclusion, Indigeneity, and anti-racism is reflected across our programs and embedded in our pedagogical approaches and supports. A campus-wide curriculum review was initiated in 2020-2021 to assess our current standing against those goals and to inform a plan for action. The focus of this review is on Indigenous knowledges, Black knowledges, racialized perspectives, as well as international and intercultural experiences. While centred on these priority areas, the review is also taking an intersectional approach, including gender, sexuality, and disability, with the goal of contributing to a campus community where all members can excel, thrive, and experience belonging.
The curriculum review has been collectively led by a Working Circle made up of students, faculty, staff, and community members. The circle-based framework has been foundational to the review, reflecting the importance of process for undertaking structural change. The circle process emphasizes a commitment to deep listening, shared leadership, relationality and mutual respect, non-hierarchical dialogue, and openness to learning from the diverse voices and perspectives gathered. Crucially, the circle framework also emphasizes the importance of process for undertaking structural change.
Racialized perspectives, particularly Indigenous and Black knowledges, remain underrepresented in the curriculum and in approaches to teaching and learning at U of T Scarborough. Recent studies have highlighted the challenges impacting the success of Black and Indigenous students in Canada and at U of T in particular. These areas must be prioritized in order to ensure that our programming and pedagogical practices more fully reflect the diversity of our campus community and that U of T Scarborough is an accessible and inclusive space where students can succeed, thrive, and experience belonging.
In this review, we are using a number of key terms that anchor our work, including “equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI),” “decolonization,” “Indigenous knowledges and knowledge systems,” and “Black knowledges.” Recognizing the importance of framing our approach in the review, a brief overview of some of these terms can be found below. While these terms help to anchor our work, each one encompasses complex nuances and reflects diverse histories. They also have limitations, and critical debate about their usage, their effectiveness, and their scope is dynamic, ongoing, and sometimes fraught in both academic and community contexts.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI): We are using “equity” to refer to processes and actions that recognize the unjust treatment of systemically marginalized groups and that seek to ensure access and success of these groups as well as the related transformation of institutional structures and representation.
We understand “diversity” as the multiplicity of voices and perspectives that characterize human experience, the value of those differences, and the overlooked or, in some cases, violently erased histories and knowledges that they represent. These perspectives encompass, but are not limited to, cultural background, racial and ethnic identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic position, differently abled bodies, age, and educational experience.
We are using “inclusion” to refer to the meaningful integration and recognition of these diverse perspectives and knowledges and the establishment of institutional structures and access pathways that enable all persons to excel, thrive, and experience belonging.
Intersectionality: Aspects of identity and of lived experience are often interrelated, or “intersectional” (a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in her 1989 article “Demarginalizing the Intersection between Race and Sex”), such that individuals or groups may experience overlapping areas of discrimination or disadvantage. For example, an individual might identity as queer, as a person of colour, and as differently abled.
Related to, but also distinct from, broader institutional commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion is the work of anti-colonialism, anti-racism, and anti-Black racism.
Decolonization: Decolonization, as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang underscore in their 2012 article “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor,” cannot be separated from the land on which we teach and learn at U of T Scarborough. In the context of curriculum and pedagogy, the Working Circle understands the work of “anti-colonialism” as an intentional process of “uncolonizing” (Giidaakunadaad, 2021): a systemic transformation of academic disciplines, course content, and pedagogies based in Western and Eurocentric principles that have devalued and erased Indigenous, Black, and racialized histories, geographies, epistemological paradigms, and pedagogies. That transformation must be rooted in individual and institutional learning, including becoming aware of and understanding the history and ongoing impacts of settler colonialism and the role that education and educational systems continue to play in enacting colonial violence and systemic injustices.
Indigenous knowledges and knowledge systems: There is no single definition for “Indigenous knowledges and knowledge systems.” English terminology is also inadequate. In the context of the Working Circle report, we understand “Indigenous knowledges and knowledge systems” to denote the histories, languages, paradigms, and pedagogies that reflect the expertise of Indigenous Nations and communities in particular locations. In the context of Turtle Island, the attempted eradication of these knowledges and knowledge system is an ongoing legacy of the residential school system.
Black knowledges: We understand “Black knowledges” to denote Afrocentric critical and pedagogical approaches that resist and disrupt the violent erasure of Black history through slavery and colonialism, including in academic contexts, by reframing those historical narratives and foregrounding the experiences and contributions of Black individuals and communities.
It is vitally important that the Working Circle’s report not be seen as a final statement. It constitutes rather an important beginning: an articulation of needs and priorities focused on curriculum and pedagogy that build on existing institutional commitments and aspire to the transformational change reflected in UTSC’s Strategic Plan. It is also a statement about the importance of process, of listening, of the time and care needed to undertake meaningful change, of learning, of accountability, and of necessary discomfort, as we move as a campus into the implementation of these recommended actions.
The sharing of this report represents an important call to all members of the UTSC community to take up these recommended actions in your own professional and pedagogical spaces. We welcome your feedback and your input. You can write directly to firstname.lastname@example.org or share your comments via the UTSC Campus Curriculum Review Feedback Form. If you would like to get involved in moving the recommended actions of the Working Circle forward in your department, please reach out to your Chair or Director. And if you would like to be involved in the Working Circle as it moves forward, please reach out to email@example.com.
The UTSC Library has created a landing page with reading lists and resources connected to the curriculum review and related topics, including Orange Shirt Day, Read Indigenous, Display Your Pride, Anti-Asian Racism, and Anti-Black Racism. The Library welcomes suggests for further additions.
Over the summer of 2022, an online resource hub to support curricular and pedagogical work advancing the goals of the curriculum review will be developed.
The Working Circle’s recommended actions also centre on the creation of continued spaces for shared conversation, learning, and unlearning. This will include the creation of a Pedagogies of Inclusive Excellence Forum, which will launch in 2022-23.