Following sexism issues in an English class raised last January in an Academic Affairs Committee meeting, the chair of the English and drama department, Alexandra Gillespie, told The Medium that she is addressing these concerns.
“[…] concerns were expressed by a number of faculty members, including me, and also by some students. The students had more specific complaints where they talked about incidents of sexism occurring in the classroom,” said Gillespie.
Gillespie also cited other issues regarding equity and diversity within the department. Some faculty members expressed concerns over the difficulties of retention and recruitment of women and minorities within the faculty.
“UTM generally doesn’t have many Indigenous faculty members [who are] permanent faculty,” said Gillespie.
Besides meeting with both staff and students to discuss solutions to incidents of sexism and gender inequity, Gillespie plans on creating a new academic and social events committee.
According to a Quality Assurance Review, released by the Office of the Vice-Provost of Academic Programs in 2015 and updated in July 2016, this committee will execute a series of lectures and events with “representation from all levels of faculty and from the English and Drama Student Society.”
The review also states that at least one “well-known outside speaker” will be invited each term to help build a stronger sense of community between faculty and students in the department.
Significant changes are also being made in the hiring and training process within the English department. According to Gillespie, these changes follow recommendations found in the guidebook Searching for Excellence & Diversity, published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“We hope to have gender parity in our teaching. […] It is a number one priority for our department to improve the diversity within our faculty. We will make sure that our way of hiring makes it more likely that we hire diverse candidates,” said Gillespire.
A tentative townhall is being set by Gillespie, the date of which is yet to be announced.