In July 2020, Dean Brenda Ravenscroft shared the specific actions the Schulich School of Music would be taking to achieve its goals of addressing inequities and discrimination within the School over the next five years. This timeline is the duration of the Strategic Plan (2020–24), which, at its core, engages with the challenges presented by the evolving role of music in society in the 21st century and sets a course for purposeful transformation.
The School committed to increase the diversity of people, practices, and curriculum in three broad areas:
Diversify our community by implementing strategies to recruit underrepresented populations.
Improve equity, diversity and inclusion in personal awareness and practices
Enhance the diversity of curriculum, repertoire and teaching modalities
With clear initiatives laid out, we wanted to see where we find ourselves one year later. We checked in with Prof. Lloyd Whitesell, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee Chair and Vice-Dean of the Schulich School of Music for his candid reflections on the past year.
What are the major EDI milestones that have been met this past year?
Prof. Lloyd Whitesell: First of all, we established a standing committee of Faculty Council to promote and coordinate EDI initiatives. This committee will be a kind of brain center and champion for making our School a more open and welcoming place. Second, with the community’s input, we developed a set of Guidelines for Faculty-Student Interaction. I describe them below. Third, conversations were initiated in every Area and Ensemble program involving instructors and students, to explore what curricular diversity would look like in their own program and propose concrete strategies for diversifying the curriculum/repertoire.
What has been the response to the work that the EDI Committee and the Schulich School of Music have undertaken?
LW: In some ways it has been difficult, confronting us with our own responsibility in the face of social injustice and historical legacies of discrimination, challenging us to learn more in areas where we may not be well-informed, and exposing conflicting views in our community. We have heard the whole spectrum of responses, from enthusiastic support, to complaints that our central mission is under threat, to dissatisfaction at the slow pace of change. Some people objected to having to take on EDI work during the pandemic, when people were already under a great deal of stress. Others told us they did not anticipate how enriching and enlightening the consultation with students and professors would be.
What was the most eye-opening thing you/the EDI Committee have encountered this past year?
LW: I honestly did not foresee the intensity of the debates that were sparked by questions of equity and diversity. People sometimes reacted as if their most treasured ideals were being trampled on. It was encouraging to see the passion expressed, but the debates also revealed a number of misconceptions about equity work which got in the way of productive conversation.
What tools are available for personal and faculty-wide use?
LW: The Guidelines for Faculty-Student Interaction spell out principles of empowerment, respect, anti-oppression, inclusiveness, and cultural sensitivity which form the basis for a shared understanding of best practices in the learning environment. They offer guidelines for tricky situations specific to the music-school context, as well as providing links to further available resources. We also have identified a group of Equity Advisors who are trained to receive disclosures from individuals in the School and connect people to appropriate resources.
What next steps can we anticipate from the EDI Committee?
LW: The top priority for the Committee next year is to support the Areas and Ensembles during the implementation phase of diversifying their curriculum. Equally as important is to develop a plan to schedule regular workshops in the School of Music, with an aim to increase awareness, counter misconceptions, and explain the benefits of diversity. Increased diversity can lead to a better campus climate, more opportunities to broaden one’s perspective, increased access to support systems, and more chances to participate in complex conversations.
My new favourite motto for this work is: “Build a longer table, not a higher fence.”
The Schulich School of Music is committed to promoting diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in our learning and employment environment, our artistic and social interactions, and our engagement with all communities. The School aims to foster a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of all persons. We strive to identify, remove, and prevent barriers that hinder full and meaningful participation in all aspects of campus life. All members of the Schulich School of Music community share the responsibility of supporting these values and goals.