Carleton University’s journalism program is the oldest in the country. As such we have a responsibility to acknowledge the role we have played in the perpetuation of systemic racism in the education of young journalists. Equally important, we have a responsibility to be clear about the actions we are undertaking as we try to address the very real concerns about the lack of diversity and inclusion in our program.
We have not done enough to ensure that our racialized students* feel welcome and heard in our classrooms. Nor have we done enough to ensure that all of you acquire the capabilities you need to report on the full diversity of communities and individuals who make up Canadian society and the world.
We have read – and endorse in principle – the Call to Action published on June 11 by a group of graduates and current students.
Thank you for speaking out to us about this, loudly and clearly. We will continue to listen to you.
We have been working on a plan of action and will immediately implement the following in order to begin providing you with a richly diverse and inclusive program.
The changes we commit to below aim to address racism against Black, Indigenous and People of Colour as well as intolerance based on ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and ability.**
1. We will start recruiting for our newly mandated academic post – the Carty Chair in Journalism, Diversity and Inclusion Studies. Our goal is to hire a new faculty member for this endowed chair by July 2021. The successful applicant will create new course offerings, establish a program of research and bring a focus to the Journalism program’s efforts to foster an environment that cultivates a diversity of journalists* and fully recognizes and engages with all members of Canadian society. We won’t stop there – we commit to more diversity in the people we hire to teach you and work with you.
2. We will redesign our first-year introductory undergraduate courses and ensure they have a strong central focus on diversity and inclusion. For example, the winter term course will be renamed “Foundations: Practising Journalism in a Diverse Society” and will be anchored firmly in the belief that real change starts with a clear understanding of how to cover communities that have long been marginalized. It will provide our first-year students with the means to approach and practice journalism from varying perspectives. We will make the same curricular changes in courses in other years of the program.** At the graduate level, we ensure our foundational courses reflect the same focus. We will launch our new Master’s course on journalism, race and diversity in September.
3. We will give clear guidance to instructors to be mindful of diversity and inclusion issues in course design and delivery and in interactions with you. To ensure we have real change in course content throughout our program, including the selection of topics, readings, assignments, examples and guest speakers, we will continually assess our curriculum and provide a Diversity and Inclusion checklist to assist instructors as they build their courses. And to support the use of that checklist – to ensure you and your story ideas are truly heard, understood and welcomed – we will ask everyone who teaches you to participate in unconscious bias training in preparation for this coming fall and beyond.
4. We will make it mandatory for all of our students to complete a course in Indigenous history in order to meet our responsibilities more fully as a journalism program under the Truth and Reconciliation’s Call to Action 86. Several years ago, we created one course that probes the historical and present-day relationship between journalists and Indigenous peoples in Canada and another that took students to Indigenous communities in Canada’s North. We made a calendar change to add an option from Indigenous Studies to our required history credit. But we know there’s more to it than optional offerings. That is why we will commit to this more fundamental change.
5. We will continue to support the work of the Journalism program’s student Equity and Inclusion Committee as well as its efforts to engage with all of you.
Last year, after discussions with current and former students, we hired an expert journalist with lived experience to conduct a consultation with our faculty and staff on issues of diversity. This expert then organized a “story circle” for students to share their experiences in our program and suggest changes.
Out of that process emerged the committee, which includes faculty members as liaisons. The committee gathered and presented student concerns to us, along with specific recommendations for how we could make progress. It began examining how students could comfortably raise their complaints and have them addressed. It offered to provide feedback to us as we worked to improve the scope of our teaching practices and materials.
With financial support from the Journalism program and the Faculty of Public Affairs (FPA), the Committee scheduled a second story circle – this one to bring students and instructors face-to-face so that we could listen to the hard truths and then together explore ways of making our program better. This initiative was cut short by COVID-19, as was the committee’s planned public event that would have brought in journalists of colour and from other marginalized groups to discuss challenges in modern newsrooms.
The committee plans to hold the story circle online in August. It also hopes to mount further online programming, and will reschedule the journalists’ panel in the fall term.
It does not end with this. The faculty and leadership of the Journalism program recognize that addressing diversity and inclusion is a central challenge to our credibility as an institution serving the full diversity of Canadian society – not only with regard to race, but also ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and ability.
We do not underestimate the scale of this ongoing challenge. Each year we will release a report to chart our progress – where we achieved positive change, what we still need to do.
As we work to build a diverse and inclusive Journalism program for all of you, we will keep this conversation going. We invite you – as well as our former students and working journalists – to join in.
Director (Interim) – School of Journalism and Communication
Program Head – Journalism
Incoming Associate Director – School of Journalism and Communication
Incoming Program Head – Journalism
**Clarification June 14, 2:15 p.m. EDT of the wording in the original letter posted June 11, 7:33 p.m. EDT
*Updated Feb. 6, 2021, 2:30 p.m. EST