1. You are OVPECI’s first ECI Faculty Chair. What does your position entail?
I’ve been at Ryerson since 2007 as a faculty member in the Department of History. My area of teaching and research is U.S. urban and cultural history. The role of ECI Faculty Chair was created by Denise O’Neil Green, Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion. It’s a pilot leadership position designed to bring a faculty perspective to the work of the Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion (OVPECI). It’s also designed as a bridge between OVPECI and the academic side of the university, and intended to enhance communication and practice about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). In the role I am a resource to help my faculty colleagues at Ryerson conduct hiring practices in ways that start from an inclusive foundation We aim to recruit and retain faculty who bring excellence to our campus through their ways of knowing, teaching and serving.
2. How does your background and research connect with your role and work as ECI Faculty Chair?
I identify as a queer transman, an immigrant, a birth parent, and as a settler on Indigenous land. I was born, grew up and went to university in the UK. I worked and went to grad school in the US and moved to Canada to work at the University of Toronto after I got my PhD in 2000. I transitioned from female to male in 2011 after I got tenure here at Ryerson. So over time I’ve had to become resilient to navigate all those roles and changes. Sexism, homophobia and transphobia are issues I’ve faced and continue to deal with. But my privileges of whiteness, and coming from a middle-class educated background have given me a hand up to achieve many things. All those experiences and positions of advantage and disadvantage shape my capacity to see and try to resolve structural barriers to inclusion and equity.
My role as ECI Faculty Chair feels like an extension of my research. As an urban cultural historian I’ve immersed myself in histories of race, gender, class, sexuality, and in particular cities as sites for the power struggles of diverse populations. Universities are similar spaces -- sites for those same struggles. At a university, like in a city, you usually have a small number of people similar to each other making decisions for a very large number of more diverse people. That imbalance gets reproduced over time, making it hard for diverse voices to get heard, for change to happen -- that’s why an office like OVPECI is so important.