University needs race-based data

Last week, the CBC reported that Ryerson is among a number of Canadian universities that do not collect race-based statistics and data from its students.

The report found that out of 76 schools surveyed, 63 stated they could not provide statistics on the racial demographic of their student populations. This amounts to more than 80 per cent.

There’s no doubt that race is an uncomfortable topic today, and the argument that universities are open places for dialogue – that students should be exposed to contrasting viewpoints in order to situate and challenge their own – is not new.

The Ryersonian’s Julia Ho, for instance, writes about the prevalence of political binaries in this week’s Opinion piece.

She argues that challenging your stance by opening up to those that are the opposite is critical to developing a better understanding of your own.

The CBC report questioned that as university campuses (and to an extent, our public institutions) continue to place an increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion, isn’t it time we demand statistics and data collection on the ethnic and racial identification of students?

Here at the Ryersonian newsroom, we remain committed to presenting a diversity of opinions.

There is no doubt that our team may have concerns about the way this potential data may be used. But there is one thing that we cannot disagree on: fact-based reporting.

The collection of data is vital in this, as gathering information allows institutions like schools to recognize trends, patterns and ambiguities.

It offers an opportunity to learn from these ambiguities about what can be changed or done to “promote equity, diversity and inclusion as an essential feature of all that we do,” as Ryerson’s president Mohamed Lachemi told the Ryersonian on March 20.

This is why, as you’ll see over the next week or so in our News section, the Ryersonian embarked on a journey to gather data, taking a cross-country look at the far-reaching consequences of the U.S. travel ban. This was sparked, in part, after our newsroom learned of another organization on campus that responded to the travel ban by cancelling its own trips to the U.S.

That being said, we admit that having a conversation about how precisely this data will be used by the university administration and student population is something that will undoubtedly need to take place.

This must be done through dialogues and consultations with students, faculty and other key stakeholders within the university community.

But that can’t happen until we – both as a student body and an institution – have concrete data and statistics to reference. Because ultimately, fact-based reporting will trump anecdotal evidence, always.


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