Ryerson will begin collecting race-based data from students

Starting in July, Ryerson University will be updating the existing diversity self-identification questionnaire. Students will be able to voluntarily input and update their information at any time.

This comes amidst a CBC News investigation that uncovered Ryerson as one of 63 Canadian universities that does not collect data on the race of its students.

The purpose of the investigation is to look at race and racial discrimination at Canadian universities. The investigation proposes the collection of race-based data as a way of addressing inequality and understanding minority groups.

An email from the university’s office of public affairs explains that race-based data can help Ryerson identify and remove systemic barriers and track progress over time.

“Data doesn’t tell the whole story, however … it is … part of the overall strategy to advance equity, diversity and inclusion at Ryerson,” it read.

As part of its investigation over the past five months, CBC News asked 76 Canadian universities for race-based data on their students. Out of this, 63 of them were unable to provide numbers on racial diversity simply because they don’t ask students about their racial identities.

“If collecting race-based data can benefit minorities in terms of financial help or counselling, then I’m all for it,” said Burhan Goraya in an interview with the Ryersonian. Goraya is the president of Ryerson’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Students’ Association and one of the students who shared his experience with CBC News as a racialized person on campus.

Dana Osborne, assistant professor in Ryerson’s department of languages, literatures and cultures, told the Ryersonian she believes race-based data over the course of many years can suggest differential patterns among student populations and is necessary for establishing a baseline for institutional change.

The collection of race-based data can … suggest patterns and correlations – it is up to analysts to discover the meanings of these patterns and to suggest possible interventions and solutions to resolve discrepancies,” said Osborne.

“A university education, and especially one that is driven by robust data and has the tools to act on possible differential needs of students, professors, administrators and employees is possibly one of the greatest social equalizers available to us and cannot be ignored if we take seriously the philosophy of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

 

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