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Recent Hiring at Selkirk College Sparks Online Petition

| by: Whitney Rothwell |

An informal group of Selkirk College faculty, alumni, retirees and community members started a petition this week to highlight their concern regarding the lack of diversity in senior management positions at the College.  

“People were really interested in hearing from candidates who understood rural community college challenges” – Angus Graeme

Posted online as a Google document, the petition, addressed to the Board of Governors states, “We the undersigned employees, students, alumni, and retirees of Selkirk College, and community members, are concerned about the lack of diversity in senior management positions at the College.”

According to the top signatory of the petition, Lori Barkley, Instructor of Anthropology, and Peace and Justice Studies, the petition was started, ”when it came out just last week that the third VP hired was also what seems to be presenting as another white middle aged male”.

Barkley sees the petition as an opportunity to educate the administration in these issues and says, “I think the hope is that we would get an employment equity policy and that that policy would be followed in future hirings”. 

Angus Graeme, President and CEO of Selkirk College, comments, “It’s an evolving make-up of the team, and it’s not the easiest thing to go out and make sure all of those things (diversity concerns) are looked at when you’re trying to hire the best possible candidate with the best fit for the institution.” Graeme adds that the recent hiring committee, made up of employees and representatives from all three faculty unions, was gender-balanced and discussed diversity as a criteria for their search. 

“As employees, women and other minorities look and say ‘okay, clearly there’s no space for us in the upper echelons’.“ – Lori Barkley

“But, people were really interested in hearing from candidates who understood rural community college challenges, understood some of our challenges in the West Kootenay Boundary and were a good fit with the culture of the institution.” says Graeme.

When asked for his opinion on an employment equity policy based on hiring diversely when choosing between equally qualified candidates, Graeme stated that he thinks it’s a great idea. He notes that Selkirk is currently editing a final draft of an inclusivity policy and an inclusivity plan that includes intercultural competency training for all employees, changing demographics in instruction and support staff, and other equity strategies.

Barkley highlights the importance of having a diverse senior management, “As employees, women and other minorities look and say ‘okay, clearly there’s no space for us in the upper echelons’. Yes there are some deans, there are a few deans who are women, but the message is […] that your perspectives aren’t important enough to be at this level. You’re really counting on white males to step outside of their privilege to represent you.”

She also points out that, “People don’t often discriminate intentionally, they just don’t think about it”. Petition signatories hope that raising this issue at Tuesday’s board meeting will show the importance of considering how a lack of diversity can be perceived by faculty, students and the community.

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