The Gist of EDI(equity, diversity, inclusion): (1) Affirmative Action (on steroids!) and (2) a Brain Drain.

If I’m asked what EDI is, I think the following apt:

EDI is 1) affirmative action (on steroids!) and 2) a brain drain.

Here’s the nutshell version of what I mean by these terms. And you might want to follow along with the “Frequently asked questions” link or the PDF at the bottom of this post (which doesn’t cover everything I say here, but will help you get a basic handle on it).

*Remember my focus is on Canadian Universities. But since EDI is a global phenomenon, non-Canadians might also find my work useful or interesting.

(1) In 2003, a group of eight academics filed a human rights complaint alleging that Canadian Research Chair Program (CRCP) discriminated against the four designated (disadvantaged) groups (FDGs) protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act: women, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples and racialized minorities.

In 2006, a settlement was reached whereby the CRCP signed an agreement to bolster representation from these groups. In 2016, the plaintiffs filed again on the grounds that not enough progress was being made to remove barriers and increase FDG representation (meet quota). In 2019, an addendum was added to the original settlement to further efforts to remove barriers and increase representation of the FDGs among Canadian Research Chairs and across academia generally. Hence, the commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) to this end.

*In 2019, the EDI Dimensions Pilot Program was launched. I’ll talk about Dimensions in upcoming posts.

(2)The concept of affirmative action seems fairly straightforward, even if the proliferation of sub-agendas (e.g. implicit bias; decolonisation) in EDI programs doesn’t. But now things get a little more complicated.

Implementing EDI programs to increase affirmative action quotas is one thing. But there’s a broader claim with other kinds of corresponding targets here. You’ll first need to know that EDI isn’t confined to Canada. Rather you’ll find that related programs are part of a global movement, usually tied to economic development.

So. Canada’s research granting agencies claim EDI — and especially diversity — leads to greater research excellence. This is a dubious claim that we’ll try to unpack on this site.

This touted ‘greater research excellence’ is thought necessary both to retain world class Canadian researchers and to recruit world class researchers from other countries. Hence, the brain drain.

So, there’s competition to attract and retain researchers of high repute. But highfalutin researchers don’t come cheap. There is also competition for the resources, i.e. money, needed to attract and retain them. Yet money isn’t the only attraction. There’s also the prestige of the recruiting institution (status), the delectation the researcher will enjoy (or imagines she will enjoy) in the community, and so on. Hence I suspect EDI is part of a courtship ritual for prospective researchers — and solicitation for their accompanying funds. Whether this suspicion is warranted is also something we’ll investigate here.


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