Equity Review Findings and Next Steps

Tēnā koe,

In October and November 2020 SLT endorsed Te Waka Pākākano | the Office of the AVC Māori, Pasifika and Equity to conduct research to inform a complete Equity Review. The aim of the review was to examine equity, diversity and inclusiveness in the University of Canterbury (UC) context, with a Tiriti o Waitangi-centred and intersectional approach.

We wish to acknowledge and sincerely thank all who participated in the review, particularly those who shared their lived experiences.

The report has now been presented to Council and shared with participants. The results (summarised below) identify the importance of breadth of focus across the University.

Findings

The Equity Review draws attention to the challenges the University faces in defining equity, diversity and inclusiveness and in delivering commitments into meaningful outcomes for underserved[1] communities. These communities include, but are not limited to Māori, Pacific, Rainbow, people with long-term disabilities (physical and mental health-related), people of faith, migrants, people of refugee background and women.

Qualitative research data was collected to inform the review through semi-structured interviews with targeted groups of students and staff. This was supplemented with an anonymous online questionnaire, which was distributed to gather broader UC student and staff input. Approximately 700 responses were received online and in excess of 80 in-person interviews as part of this process.

Findings highlight confusion about the meaning of equity in the UC context and it is clear that the implementation of the Equity and Diversity Plan, policy and aspirations were not met in full, as a result of this lack of clarity. Many research participants reported experiencing various forms of discrimination in the University. Others talked about the ongoing reproduction of structures of privilege. Many participants from non-marginalised groups denied or were unaware of the reality of marginalisation for others, and voiced concerns that acknowledging diversity could cause a reduction of teaching and learning standards or even threaten the value of the dominant culture.

It is encouraging that despite the significant challenges identified in the feedback, students and staff recognised the valuable equity work already under way across the University. This included the development and implementation of UC Values, Takere Māori and Pacific Academy and the Kia Angitu Student Success Framework. These developments demonstrate UC’s commitment to providing equitable access for Māori, Pacific, first in family, those from low-decile schools, and students with disabilities as they enter tertiary education.

In particular, focus on a strengths-based approach and research-based evidence drive action to meet UC’s aspirations for equity. It was also clear in participants’ feedback that research without committed leadership and an improved organisational culture would not lead to meaningful change.

[1] The term ‘underserved’ is used in the review report to refer to individuals, groups and communities that experience discrimination and exclusion (social, political and economic) because of unequal power relationships across economic, political, social and cultural dimensions.

What’s our response?

In response to the Equity Review findings, an Equity Response Plan is being developed to determine how UC will achieve positive change. The approach will be phased, prioritising short, medium, and long-term strategies and tactics. The Equity Response Plan will be finalised and circulated later in 2021.

This is a step in our journey to creating an equitable community, and we are committed to continuing to engage in conversations that facilitate this. Over the next month there are workshops and open sessions scheduled for line managers, leaders, and all staff. These will be led by Tumu Whakarae | Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey. Information on registering for these workshops will be shared via Tū ki te tahi (staff newsletter).

The workshops will provide opportunities for you to identify where you can respond to the review and take action within the context of your department, as well as providing feedback that will contribute towards the Equity Response Plan. We also welcome your feedback and ideas on the response to the review via email to equity@canterbury.ac.nz.

There are actions we can take even as we establish a meaningful implementation response. The first step is to define a shared understanding of equity, which is pivotal in achieving meaningful outcomes to this work. While the workshops and response planning phase take place, we will also refine and confirm a definition that is concise and specific to UC’s aspirations for equity, diversity, and inclusiveness.

As a UC staff member, what can I do now?

There are numerous resources already available which we encourage you to use in support of your personal journey to building awareness and understanding of equity:

  • UC’s Organisational Values were developed at the time the review process was undertaken. They have been endorsed by UC’s Senior Leadership Team and Council, and will be integrated and recognised as part of the proposed Equity Response Plan – bookmark this page and get to know the values!
    • Whanaungatanga: we value people and their differences
    • Manaakitanga: we extend care and empower others
    • Tiakitanga: we will enhance and nurture our resources
  • Sign up to a Learning and Development course to further develop your understanding. Find the landing page with a full list here.
    Here are some great courses to look out for:

    • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: From Theory to Practice
    • Pasifika Talanoa Development Day
    • Rainbow Awareness Workshop
    • Tangata Tū, Tangata Ora
    • Te Reo Māori for the Workplace

Nāhaku noa, nā
Dr Darryn Russell and the Equity Reference Group

 

Seeking support

At Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | the University of Canterbury, everyone has the right to be treated in a respectful and equitable way and we support anyone in our community to speak out against behaviours that don’t support this. Please talk with your manager if you require any support. The HR Advisory team can provide support to managers as needed.

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)  provides UC staff access to voluntary, confidential, safe and professional counselling assistance. Click here for more information on this service.

If you identify a student who requires support, here are resources and support services for them:

There are also additional resources and support services in the community:

  • Need To Talk: 1737 (free text or phone)
    • Lifeline: 0800 543 354