4. Institutional Leadership, Decision-Making and Planning

4.1 Decision-Making Structures

4.1.1 Addressing the dearth of Black leadership

Participants noted the dearth of Black leaders in post-secondary institutions across the country and called for intentional efforts to increase their number, not just across units but also at various levels of leadership. They advocated for more accountability and open communication in the selection processes for key senior roles across the sector.

4.1.2 Changing institutional culture and educating senior leadership

Participants stated that institutions benefit from colonial legacies and have maintained structures that harm Black communities. They contended that post-secondary institutions tend to prioritize and privilege structures that normalize the supremacy of white culture within institutional spaces and hierarchies. There was shared concern that people in positions of senior leadership and influence (e.g., on governing council or senate) have a responsibility to act against anti-Black racism but are seldom well-educated on the related historical and current issues. Their lack of knowledge has a negative impact on how the issues are seen, championed and addressed.

To combat this, institutions must embrace inclusive structures and practices that reflect the communities they serve. It was also noted that white leaders should recognize the power, privilege and position that whiteness affords them. Participants recommended that senior leadership training be provided through an anti-racist lens, including perspectives that draw on critical race theory. Such training is helpful in informing the creation of measurable competencies, accountability and reporting structures, and rewards programs that facilitate the success of Black students, faculty and staff. This effort will require the hiring of trainers, workplace investigators, human resource professionals and others who have relevant expertise and lived experience.

4.1.3 Defining “excellence” within the institution

The word “excellence” was mentioned in several conversations. Many felt that the word needs to be deconstructed and redefined to ensure that excellence is inclusive and reflective of Black people’s assets, experiences and contributions. Participants said it is necessary to challenge practices and policies that force Black individuals to assimilate into existing structures, which relate to Black students, faculty, staff and communities from a deficit model of Blackness. It was proposed that institutions draw from some existing initiatives and frameworks (e.g., Canada Research Chairs EDI Action Plan and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada) to guide their approaches to facilitating inclusive excellence.

4.1.4 Creating accountability structures and public assessment tools

Participants expressed the need for post-secondary senates and boards to hold themselves and their administrations accountable by establishing requirements for delivering and reporting on actions, including firm timeliness requirements. This would include creating a public assessment tool, which would demonstrate how institutions are doing in meeting specified goals and targets. The outcomes of these goals and targets could be tied to a performance review measure for senior leadership, as an added accountability mechanism.

Participants felt that senior leaders should serve as champions for equity within decision-making bodies. Additionally, work that addresses anti-Black racism should be supported by institutional commitments to work towards a sense of shared accountability. Contributors to the discussion listed the benefits of recurring processes that review and examine best practices in equitable decision-making structures at comparable institutions. They recommended that principles of, and commitments to, equity, diversity and inclusion need to be embedded in institutional strategies. They stressed that future institutional policies, statements and codes of conduct should explicitly state commitments to social justice and human rights. Moreover, building effective complaint mechanisms will ensure a fair outcome and help institutions improve. It was also proposed that the Scarborough Charter should be regularly reviewed and adjusted to reflect and respond to new challenges as they emerge on campuses.

4.1.5 Striving for diversity within Black representation

It was noted that Black representation, in and of itself, is not enough. It does not absolve an institution from responsibility for addressing anti-Black practices as they relate to the complex diversity of Black members of the academy. Participants felt that institutions work on the assumption that Black communities are homogeneous. This inaccurate view must be recognized and addressed prior to making decisions for the benefit of Black individuals and communities. Diverse members of Black communities need to be included in decision-making structures to ensure appropriate opportunities, support and responsiveness to the needs of all members of these heterogeneous communities. Notwithstanding the importance of intersectionality, participants cautioned against excessive or disingenuous use of intersectionality in decision-making structures, to the point where it could stall or undermine progress in addressing fundamental issues of anti-Black racism and Black inclusion within institutions.

4.1.6 Involving and consulting with Black students

Participants noted that students’ interests must be at the centre of decision-making structures for structural and systemic change, and that students should have a meaningful place in an institution’s governance. A student-directed approach to outreach initiatives, for example, can help to counter perceptions of elitism, address the gap between institutions and the communities where they are located, and create pathways for student access and success. Genuine engagement would require creating specialized community conversations that allow Black students to provide valued input into decisions while they work along with university administration, faculty associations, employee unions and student groups. Finally, accountability mechanisms and measures of success towards goals need to be defined in collaboration with Black students, and supported by them.

4.1.7 Strengthening and resourcing equity, diversity and inclusion portfolios

There was a call for equity, diversity and inclusion portfolios to be appropriately resourced. These offices are often understaffed and under-resourced, without the power to make necessary changes. Institutional commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion should not be limited to the work of colleagues in these portfolios but should be woven into all aspects of the institution’s mission and should be a core mandate of every portfolio.

To get to this outcome, it was proposed that equity, diversity and inclusion principles and expectations should be embedded into quality assurance processes, curricular and program reviews, and performance assessments for all employees, including senior administrators. Furthermore, the development of a sector-wide equity, diversity and inclusion index was suggested as a means of measuring inclusive excellence within institutions. The index would incorporate criteria for assessing how meaningfully an institution was addressing systemic racism/anti-Black racism, and assessing the impact of related initiatives.


4.2 Data Collection

4.2.1 Using appropriate longitudinal, race-based data collection and retention practices

The need for appropriate longitudinal, race-based data collection and retention practices to support decision-making and actions in higher education was highlighted in various dialogues. In post-secondary education, small-scale efforts to collect data on marginalized groups can bring about a sense of isolation and of being targeted. Also, it is crucial to uplift the voices of Black individuals who hold intersecting identities, to see how this impacts their experiences in the post-secondary environment.

It was made clear that, in using data to further institutional change, it is imperative that the experiences and stories of those who share information are valued and protected. Collecting and analyzing disaggregated data from institutions and relevant professional associations can be a means to create anti-Black racism initiatives that are engrained across institutions, as opposed to only within campus equity offices.

4.2.2 Establishing community accountability

Participants stressed the need for institutions to be accountable to the various communities that they serve. Some highlighted the importance of utilizing external community voices. It was emphasized that institutions would not know whether measures and proposed solutions to address anti-Black racism are working unless communities are granted opportunities to provide ongoing feedback, informing how programs are delivered and tailored.

4.2.3 Developing improved data communication and sharing practices

To keep communities engaged and institutions accountable, it is helpful to establish communication channels and online hubs to share regular updates on data and related initiatives. For example, integrating proposed data-informed actions into institutional strategic plans promotes shared responsibility, and tying campus-wide initiatives to key performance indicators promotes shared accountability. Furthermore, it was recommended that one outcome of the National Dialogues be a co-ordinated accountability system across the post-secondary sector, whereby institutions publicly share annual reports on race-based data, outlining targets for initiatives, timelines and progress towards addressing anti-Black racism.

4.2.4 Using provincial resources and networks

It was suggested that post-secondary institutions need to work with provincial governments to develop shared data standards. This will support data-informed decision-making regarding Black inclusion initiatives and anti-Black racism, and will address existing gaps. As a sector, instituting common values, principles and actions around data collection and utilization to inform policies and to support services is essential in the removal of barriers for Black community members.

4.2.5 Using quantitative and qualitative data to address inequities

Participants highlighted that the type of data that is collected should be determined based on a genuine and intentional commitment to addressing inequities for Black students, faculty and staff. Examples given included data on recruitment, salary differentials and career and academic support and progress. This will provide the basis for a more well-rounded picture of Black individuals’ experiences at all levels, to better inform decision-making structures and initiatives.


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