Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The English Department strives to be responsive to the changing needs of students and teachers of English and to the many people and socio-cultural communities that define the vibrancy and resiliency of our discipline. We believe that how we use words matters— in language, in literature, in culture. We strive to study language holistically, including in ways that acknowledge not only its potential to cause harm and incite social violence, but also its capacity to recognize historical differences and to work toward redressing the injustices that arise from them. As equity has no terminal point, it can only be achieved through active pursuit as an ongoing goal and ongoing process.

The English Department is committed to providing an environment for all students, staff, and faculty that is safe, inclusive, and respectful.  We affirm the diverse identities of persons and the rights all individuals have to be treated with dignity and respect irrespective of their gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, class, or national origin. This basic commitment entails, among other things, specific recognition and support for trans, queer, two-spirited, and non-binary people.

We acknowledge and respect the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples on whose traditional territory the University of Victoria stands, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

Student Liaison

In response to the recommendation by the University’s Equity Action Plan that we “honour student perspectives on belonging and inclusion and engage with students to improve teaching and program development,” the Department of English has created the position of Student Liaison. The task of the Liaison will be to listen to student concerns related to the classroom, courses, or departmental culture more generally, and to represent students to the Department or to advocate on their behalf when appropriate. The Liaison will also support the Department in remaining accountable to its own Equity Statement. If you wish to contact the Student Liaison please send an e-mail to englishliaison@uvic.ca. All communications will remain confidential unless otherwise specified. Until June 30, 2024, the position will be held by Professor Rebecca Gagan.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Recommendations for English Instructors

The English Department seeks to foster an environment of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and a sense of belonging, among all of its members and stakeholders: students, staff, instructors, and the public. The Department fully supports the University’s desire to create “an inclusive campus community that values diversity and challenges dominant systems of power” (UVic Equity Action Plan), even as we recognise that both the definition and the expressions of power can change over time and in relation to differing contexts. We do not, therefore, seek to impose definitive requirements but rather, in accordance with our aim to create an environment of respectful consultation on matters of equity within the English Department, have developed the following recommendations intended to aid instructors seeking to turn University policy into pedagogical practice.

1. Land acknowledgments

We strongly encourage instructors to include an Indigenous Land Acknowledgment in course syllabi and on course sites; we further recommend that instructors offer a spoken land acknowledgment in the first class of each course in a given term and at all departmental forums and events. Instructors should be aware that they may supplement the standard University Territory Acknowledgement but should retain the preferred and recommended wording of the core statement, which was “prepared in consultation with local Indigenous communities.”

2. Equity statements

We likewise encourage instructors to include an equity statement, such as that offered by the Department, in course syllabi and on course sites to demonstrate to our students the Department’s ongoing commitment to work toward redressing injustices related to historical and contemporary discrimination against marginalised individuals and groups.

3. Pronouns

We urge instructors to avoid misgendering students or other members of the university community, and to adhere to their stated pronouns, if they choose to disclose. In the case of a misgendering error, we suggest that the instructor acknowledge the mistake and adhere to the student’s stated pronouns in the future.

4. Diversity of content

We advise that, wherever pedagogically and intellectually appropriate, instructors seek to incorporate diversity — understood in terms of gender, race, Indigeneity, religion, sexuality, disability, national background, class, or other relevant categories — into the choice of texts and other resources for courses and departmental forums. There is no general formula for diversifying course content, but the Department seeks to remind instructors that the literary canons of our discipline may be subject to in-group biases and that, in any case, literary canons must not be assumed to be static.

5. Addressing colonisation

We advocate bringing into courses and departmental forums, whenever pedagogically and intellectually justifiable, awareness of the history of colonisation and the need to repair its continuing ill effects within our own field of English literary studies and beyond. Doing so helps to situate our scholarship and teaching in its Canadian political and historical context as well as in the context of the development of our discipline.

6. Equitable access

We ask that instructors consider issues of disability and equitable access in all aspects of their courses. For example, an instructor might consider recording lectures or providing written notes for each in-person class so that students unable to attend can have access to classroom course content. We also ask, for events held off campus and projects involving scheduling outside of class time, that instructors consider in advance questions of physical accessibility. We recommend that instructors explore the concept of Universal Design for Learning and consider adopting UDL practices in their teaching. As per University policy, instructors must abide by accommodations required by the Centre for Accessible Learning in all areas of course delivery.

7. Sensitive content

We advise that instructors carefully contextualise course materials that present potentially sensitive content. Sensitive content may include violence against humans or animals, derogatory references to any individual or group, and language that, in historical context or from the perspective of present-day values, exhibits or implies prejudice or disregard for groups or individuals on the basis of race, Indigeneity, gender, sexuality, disability, religion, national background, class, or other relevant categories.

8. Sensitive terminology

In consideration of the historic and contemporary mistreatment of historically marginalised individuals and groups, we counsel due care in using (including quoting in speech or writing) language in the classroom or departmental forums that may be considered prejudicial or disparaging. We advise instructors to use their judgement in deciding if and when articulating such terms is pedagogically necessary.

9. Student health and wellbeing

When a student in a class or an advisee discloses that they are experiencing health issues of any kind, instructors and supervisors may not ask the student for personal or medical details, but should seek to assist the student in whatever ways pedagogically appropriate, including alerting the student to resources of the Student Wellness Centre and to the University’s policies on academic concessions and extensions. Instructors are obligated by law to inform the sexualized violence resource office in EQHR of any reported instance of sexualized violence at the University of Victoria.

10. Academic freedom

In accordance with University of Victoria Policy GV0200, the English Department recognizes academic freedom as a fundamental value, and we emphasize that the above equity, diversity, and inclusion recommendations are not intended to impose on the academic freedom of any member of the department or university community. We affirm the University’s expectation that, in exercising academic freedom, instructors will act responsibly to further the University’s educational goals and respect the rights of other members of the University community.