Queen’s University has begun rolling out an online tool to help deans and department heads assess equity and diversity within their units. It plans to make the tool available to other universities soon.
The Diversity and Equity Assessment and Planning tool, or DEAP as it’s known, is a self-audit exercise that helps departments and other academic units understand the demographic profile of their students, faculty and staff; set targets for improvement; and assess their progress in achieving those targets. It was developed jointly by the Equity Office and the Senate Educational Equity Committee and is believed to be one of the few tools of its kind.
DEAP is now being used by the Queen’s medical school and by several departments in the faculty of engineering and applied science. Alan Harrison, Queen’s provost and vice-president academic, has asked all academic units at the university – about 200 in all – to take part in the DEAP exercise. The equity office is expecting to roll it out to all departments over the next three years, said Irène Bujara, director of the Queen’s human rights and equity office.
“Units have to see and understand the usefulness of [the tool] before they fully engage with it,” she said. Queen’s plans to develop another version of DEAP that could be used by non-academic units.
As a first step, departments that opt to take part are provided with various data collected by the equity office, such as the diversity of their student applicant pool, of registrants, and of faculty and staff. With the guidance of an equity officer, each department is asked to complete a self-assessment survey by answering questions related to 12 indicators. The questions ask, among other things, whether the unit considers equity and diversity when completing its strategic planning, when recruiting faculty and staff and when developing its curriculum. Then DEAP generates a report card summarizing the results of the survey and helps leaders identify areas that need improvement. Participants use the information to set goals based on their priorities and come up with an implementation plan.
The point of the exercise is to have units assess whether they are happy with how they are doing and whether they could do better, Ms. Bujara explained. “We already have a lot of equity related information but it doesn’t get out to various units,” she said. Rather than simply giving the data to departments in written reports, the equity office wanted an interactive, concrete set of measures that would relay the information more effectively. “We were trying to come up with a way that would allow the units to know the information was there and use it for equity purposes.”
When the equity office couldn’t find a program to fit its needs, it chose to develop one. It collaborated with the university’s senate education equity committee, which was also seeking a set of metrics to gauge how well the university was doing in meeting equity and diversity goals.
DEAP was introduced in the 2014-15 academic year. The school of medicine was an early adopter because it wanted to use the tool to answer equity-related questions that were part of its accreditation process.
Several universities from across Canada have contacted Queen’s and indicated interest in purchasing the program, Ms. Bujara said. The equity office is working with Parteq Innovations, the commercialization and knowledge-transfer office at Queen’s, to adapt the tool for use by other universities. Queen’s plans to demonstrate how DEAP works at a meeting of senior equity officers from Ontario universities. It hopes to have it available for purchase by September, but hasn’t set a price yet.