Black Lives Matter
The DAN School of Drama and Music
In the four years since the DAN School of Drama and Music was launched, in 2016, we have been actively pursuing advances in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. We are committed to making meaningful and lasting changes, not offering mere lip service. We are proud of what we have achieved so far, but we realize that there is much left to do. Accordingly, we embrace the challenge of helping to make those changes pertinent to our organization which are being demanded by the Black Lives Matter movement. It takes time to make certain kinds of changes, but I wanted to take this opportunity to speak about some of the changes that are already underway.
We are committed to helping to diversify those entering the professional performing arts.
To help with this objective, we have made a substantial donation to Black Theatre Workshop in Montreal to become Season Sponsor of their Artist Mentorship program. BTW is the oldest Black theatre company in Canada, and this exciting program helps aspiring workers in the performing arts make connections with experienced mentors who will help them negotiate the transition from student to professional. We chose this program to sponsor because of its enormous potential to make a meaningful difference to access to the performing arts for the Black community in Canada.
We established an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (in 2018).
The purpose of the committee is to identify areas where improvements can be made and to recommend policy initiatives that will help to achieve those improvements. The Chair of the EDI Committee also functions as an Equity Representative through whom students may liaise to convey their equity-related concerns. For the 2020-21 academic year, committee members will include: Quincy Armorer, Julia Brook, Matt Rogalsky, Sarah Waisvisz, Craig Walker, and others, including student rep(s), TBA.
We established, in winter 2019, an anti-discrimination and harassment policy: Not In Our School.
The Not in Our School policy includes a statement articulating our commitment to eliminating conduct that undermines the dignity or self-esteem of any person, including through race or gender-based discrimination. In addition, the policy includes a clear statement of the procedures by which a complaint of conduct can be made, including through the Equity Representative.
We are learning about ourselves.
We have conducted, in collaboration with the Queen’s Equity Office, a Climate Assessment survey designed to measure Inclusion. This survey, conducted in 2018, collected data on how students self-identified in terms of race and gender and also surveyed their impressions on how inclusive various aspects of student life were within the Dan School. Essentially, the results of this survey provided us with a baseline against which we could measure our progress in subsequent years.
We have also collected data on ten years of casting of Queen’s Drama’s major productions. This data allowed us to see and measure the larger patterns in what is often the most visible representation of our community. The data included the frequency of the casting of visible minorities and women as well as those who had identified as transgender. When measured against the data collected in the Climate Assessment survey, this allows us to assess whether the diversity of our casts reflects the diversity of our community.
We are learning about best Equity-related practices for higher education.
We are ensuring that all our faculty and staff attend courses in Equity, Human Rights, Accessibility and Inclusion. Learning in these areas helps us to improve the ways in which we help others learn.
We are increasing the diversity of our faculty.
This is an area in which change cannot happen rapidly, mainly because turnover depends on the slow processes of hiring and retirement, and secondarily because it depends on much broader social changes: e.g., who has earned a higher education degree in the relevant disciplines. However, our faculty complement is indeed slowly changing. We have a far more diverse faculty in the Dan School now than we did in 2016, and we are moving inexorably towards a more proportionate representation of the larger community.
We are being transparent about our values.
Over the last few years, we have established clearly stated learning outcomes for all of our courses and we have also written a set of guidelines articulating Production and Concert Priorities, so as to ensure that our performance activities continue to serve our wider objectives.
We are reforming our curriculum.
Most of the changes in curriculum have happened within individual courses, because we did not wish to sequester the reforms in “special interest” courses. Most of our courses, especially our core courses, have become more inclusive within the scope of their particular subjects. But we have also launched a number of particular courses that advance our Equity objectives, including, but not limited to: “Theatre and Music of Africa and the Diaspora,” “Indigenous Playwrights,” and “Listening Otherwise.”
Does the affirmation that “Black Lives Matter” mean that other lives matter less to the DAN School?
Not in the least. We make common cause with the Black Lives Matter movement because we recognize and deplore the persistent, systemic undervaluing of Black lives in our larger society. There are, of course, other social groups whose lives have been undervalued, and our intention is to join in a movement towards equitable treatment of all people by addressing first, those areas in which attention is most urgently required. For Black people and Indigenous people, systemic racism has all too often had lethal results, so attention here is vital. Black Lives matter. Indigenous Lives matter. They matter in the DAN School and in the world.
(I thank those who urged me to revise my original statement. It was interpretable as equivocating on the DAN School's position, which was certainly not my intention. My gratitude for responses received from alumni and students.)
Dr. Craig Walker,
Director of the Dan School of Drama and Music