Key Themes from Dialogue on Making the SFU Community a Safer and More Inclusive Space

October 24, 2019

As part of the Welch programming, on October 24, 2019, SFU's Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and the Office of Vice-President Research co-hosted a dialogue with senior administrators, deans and faculty to engage in dialogue on the current state of EDI at SFU. This created a space to explore SFU’s EDI initiatives and discuss tangible ways to make the SFU community a safer and more inclusive space in which everyone feels supported to thrive.

The following is a summary of key themes that emerged from the conversation and aims to inspire ongoing dialogue on the role of empathy in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work in our personal and professional lives. Participants are free to use the information received, but the ideas raised are not attributed to individuals, and the identities of participants are not released to encourage candid disucssion.

Major themes raised during the dialogue are listed below to guide future EDI initiatives at SFU.


Jackson Davidson highlighted that ensuring a systems-approach to EDI is imperative for meaningful change. Participants discussed the possibility of identifying core structures and leadership at SFU that are dedicated to advance EDI systemically, as well as measure its progress. This entails integrating accountability measures throughout various levels of the university. Ensuring this system-level commitment to EDI would improve transparency throughout the university, and also build trust between stakeholders in advancing EDI.


Institutional approaches to critical EDI issues can, at times, be reactive rather than proactive and intentional. To remedy this, Jackson Davidson raised the importance of anticipatory identification – whereby potential issues can be identified well in advance, and processes are put in place to respond to EDI challenges in a thoughtful manner. This requires an ongoing commitment to increase EDI training and capacity building at all levels of SFU, in order to mobilize around EDI issues when they arise, in a manner that feels safe and thoughtful to all stakeholders.


Participants highlighted the importance of centering voices of stakeholders that represent the diversity of SFU community. Although institutional leadership is integral to advancing EDI at SFU, there must be a balance of representation in voices when discussing these issues. Similarly, the power of intentionally establishing spaces for professors and students to have their voices heard in regards to EDI initiatives and issues was illuminated. This not only creates relationships whereby a diversity of lived experience and perspectives can be shared, but fosters a sense of institutional trust whereby diverse stakeholders can feel acknowledged at SFU.


Meaningful engagement in EDI work requires humility and reflection. Jackson Davidson encouraged the group to reflect on the reality that issues are always more complicated than simply right versus wrong – rather, we all must internally reflect on our own positions which are situated in power and privilege. Jackson Davidson emphasized that this calls upon our personal and institutional vulnerability within SFU. Self-reflexivity in exploring our personal power and privilege will support collaborative engagement by acknowledging that all our positionalities are interconnected.


Participants discussed the need for a unified, university-wide vision on what EDI means to SFU as an institution. Having this clarity would improve a collective understanding of EDI within SFU and effectively support leaders to be bold in responding to ethical dilemmas. Collective vision for EDI across the university would improve ongoing awareness of EDI initiatives and ultimately work toward increasing inclusivity and accountability in EDI work.