Members of the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) are looking to integrate social equity and sustainability into the Engineering curriculum.
An open discussion held on Nov. 10 addressed the creation of safer spaces for Engineering students.
EUS Equity Commissioner Christopher Tegho led the discussion on possible methods for promoting awareness of sexism, racism, and other issues within the faculty. He referred to various incidences that he saw as violations of individuals’ rights.
“Examples include problematic titles for events, or events [like] frosh that are all about drinking and do not include non-drinking options,” Tegho said. “There is also lots of rape culture in various engineering events. The Engineering chants during frosh mock people from other schools and other faculties, [and] some are misogynistic.”
Former EUS president Josh Redel spoke on the challenges facing students who wish to integrate social equity into the curriculum.
“[One of the] biggest challenges experienced in Engineering is that because of the extremely rigid curriculum, there is no space for courses that relate to sustainability, let alone to social equity,” Redel said.
He went on to say that the Faculty of Engineering tends to be “the target of conversations surrounding equity,” due to the disproportionate number of men to women in engineering, and because Engineering is often assumed to be a masculine program.
According to Lydia Ochieng, U3 Engineering, classrooms can be the site of problems regarding social equity.
“[There are] complaints about professors that use ‘he’ to describe inanimate objects,” Ochieng said. “Preventing the genderization of inanimate objects might be a good idea.”
When considering possible methods to combat these issues, participants agreed that incorporating social equity promotion and education into the Engineering curriculum would be the most effective way to promote social awareness.
In order to do this in a way that is accessible to Engineering students, Redel suggested incorporating analytical exercises related to Engineering into classes that were already mandatory or workshops targeted towards Engineering students.
“Is there an opportunity to add in a more social [class] that covers something like […] social equity?” Redel asked. “For example, perhaps critical thinking [about] how events were run, number of people invited, beverages served, etc., in a study of problematic scenarios. That’s a very Engineering thing to do.”
Changing the curriculum is not a simple process, and would involve associations and members of the faculty, as well as consultation with students. It would also have to meet the standards outlined by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, which accredits undergraduate Engineering programs across Canada.
However, updating the EUS equity policy is possible, according to Redel, who helped write the original EUS policy.
“EUS’ policy [is] reactive as opposed to active; if you feel something happened at an event, you can follow this complaint procedure, and talk to these people,” Redel said. “[The] Arts Undergraduate Society’s policy is a bit more active. The EUS should be active as well, [by stating]: if something happens, do this, when you’re planning an event, do this.”
Tegho brought up further methods to involve not only students but also professors in the process of integrating social equity into the Engineering curriculum.
“For instance, there are two courses that Engineering students take throughout their curriculum where the subject of equity can be discussed—FACC 100 and FACC 400,” Tegho said. “Some students mentioned that the prof [sic] currently giving this course is looking for ideas and inputs. I hope to approach this professor by the end of the year.”
According to Tegho, FACC 100 and FACC 400 would be the ideal courses to implement material on equity because they are both mandatory for all Engineering students.
Redel said any ideas that the EUS puts into action will take time to become effective.
“Hosting workshops as well would be very easy for EUS to accomplish; it just takes dedication,” Redel said. “The long-term goal of making these sessions mandatory will be more difficult, but would come naturally, especially if the education component became a reality.”