A Reddit thread recently surfaced asking for feedback on Career Services at the Desautels Faculty of Management. The top comment was written by a student of colour who claimed a Career Advisor made racist comments toward them during their first year. The student also writes that they, along with many other students of colour, have not gone back to Career Services since, out of fear of “being subjected to outright racism.”
This is the latest instance of racism at Desautels in a history of similar testimonies. On July 30, 2020, an open letter that detailed the experiences of BIPOC students was sent to Desautels higher-ups. With over 600 signatories, the letter included accounts ranging from uncomfortable class discussions to racist comments from career advisors. It also issued a list of demands, such as curriculum revisions, an official, public anti-racism plan and demographic report, and a concession of a history of past racist behaviour, among other changes.
The open letter cites the lack of representation within the faculty as a primary obstacle in fostering a more inclusive environment. According to McGill’s 2021 Bicentennial Report on Employment Equity, 14.5 per cent of tenure-stream academics within the faculty identified as ethnic minorities, just above the university-wide average of 13.6 per cent.
In both the letter and the recent Reddit thread, students raised concerns about one career advisor in particular, who allegedly made discriminatory comments such as “ching chong chang,” “I don’t speak Asian,” and “You Muslims think.”
Riley*, U4 Management, feels that no real change has been implemented in regards to the advisor since the publishing of the open letter.
“In the immediate aftermath of the open letter being released, the staff [member] in question was soon removed from the Desautels website, which many assumed meant they had been removed from their role one way or another,” Riley said. “However, after a few months, when the buzz around the letter died down a bit, the person was put back on the website as a career advisor. No further actions were taken to our knowledge.”
The McGill Tribune reached out to McGill administration for comment on the persistent accounts of racism at Desautels. Frédérique Mazerolle, a McGill media relations officer, emphasized that the university is dedicated to being a safe space for all its students.
“All members of the university community have the right to work and learn in an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination,” Mazerolle wrote in an email to the Tribune. “The university is committed to fostering a community founded upon the fundamental dignity and worth of all of its members and an equitable environment in which all members of the university can flourish.”
This past June, Desautels appointed Yolande E. Chan, a woman of colour, former associate dean and chair of digital technology at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, and a Rhodes Scholar, as the new faculty dean. Mary Zhang, U4 Management, says Chan’s appointment is an important start, but that more needs to be done.
“I believe Desautels is making efforts to change for the better, yet we have a long way to go,” Zhang said.
Zhang also noted that missing expertise and experience in the field of equity, diversity, and inclusion within Desautels is still a major concern for students.
“The overall culture at Desautels is still far from one of inclusivity,” Zhang said. “A lot of marginalized students are, sadly but justifiably, fatigued by the disillusions of the bureaucracy and pushback in the process of institutional change-making. Personally, despite the emotional labour, I look forward to continuing to push for change and believe in the potential the faculty has.”
*Riley’s name has been changed to preserve their anonymity.