University of Manitoba history professor Tina Chen has been appointed to the newly established position of executive lead of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
Chen will be tasked with implementing the seven recommendations in the final report of the president’s task force on EDI and providing leadership on EDI initiatives.
In an email to the Manitoban, Chen said implementing the recommendations “will include both short-term actions and education” as well as more long-term initiatives.
“The quantitative and qualitative findings in the EDI Task Force Report identified that members of all subgroups (students, staff, faculty) perceived a need for greater diversity to counter lack of representation in various realms, including in classrooms, in staff positions across the university, on committees [and] in leadership roles in their units,” she said.
Chen said the university must work to identify and learn from EDI practices already in place that can be expanded, identify obstacles to these initiatives and be cautious that “solutions to one issue or problem do not exacerbate existing inequities” or cause new problems.
She also highlighted the importance of “robust personal identification data” collection to inform new EDI initiatives.
Chen began working at the U of M as an assistant professor of history in 1999, focusing her research on colonialism and militarism in Asia as well as cultural politics and women’s issues in China.
“As a highly regarded historian and champion of human rights and inclusion, Dr. Chen will fulfill her duties with great insight, integrity and passion,” said university president Michael Benarroch in an email to students announcing the appointment.
Chen has also served as honours chair and associate head in the history department and was the first racialized person to become head of the department.
During her time in these positions, the history department began to utilize EDI practices, with Chen providing leadership to faculty on numerous initiatives.
She said her experience as a historian will be helpful in her role as executive lead of EDI, as “studying how power and privilege is maintained and challenged” gives her insight on the “political potential” to change these systems.
“Through my work as a historian, I see how actions of differently situated people — in collaboration, dialogue, opposition and sometimes isolation — can make institutional and systemic change happen and that is the hope that I bring to this new position,” she said.
“Systems of oppression are part of the structure of our lives in and beyond the university. These systems are reinforced in our [everyday] practices, particularly in the normalization or acceptance of ‘just how things are’ […] Intentional actions through initiatives for equity, access, social justice, diversity and inclusion are at the basis of dismantling systems of oppression.”