Why is Glendon So White?
When contrasted with the Keele Campus, one easily notices the diversity lacking at Glendon. It’s surprising to see that, although part of the same university, Glendon and Keele are immensely different in their racial and ethnic diversity. At the Keele campus, one sees the population of Toronto reflected more accurately within the student body; while at Glendon, international students contribute to a large portion of the multiculturalism on campus. If it weren’t for the international student population on campus, the racial and ethnic demographics of Toronto are hardly reflected in the student, faculty, and staff population on campus. A stroll past the hall of Glendon alumni reveals the predominantly white history of Glendon graduates. Walking down the hall towards earlier years, it gets increasingly difficult to spot a person of colour in the composites.
Part of the reason for this overwhelming whiteness is attributed to the subjects of study at Glendon. Traditionally, enrolment in liberal arts colleges is comprised mostly of white students. This can be attributed to the historical whiteness of liberal arts. Derived from Ancient Greece, liberal arts became the cornerstone of studying Euro-American civilization. The Greco-Roman origins of Liberal Arts which filtered through European, then American, civilization reflect the whiteness of the education provided at such institutions. Despite superficial liberal motions of inclusion, white supremacy and acts of hatred can be bred at Liberal Arts schools, which we unfortunately have seen on campus in past years.
Often, the study of Liberal arts is dominated by the white upper and middle class. It is conflicting that the study of liberal arts in itself promotes education for the sake of acquiring knowledge and preaches critical theories of society, whilst not applying those to itself. The composition of liberal arts colleges by mostly white students in the same economic class suggests that this knowledge is only valuable when taught to a certain race and class.
Glendon promises a diverse education to students that will challenge their views and acquaint them with students of backgrounds differing from their own. But what efforts are being made to diversify Glendon’s student body, administrators, faculty, and staff?
Leadership is an important skill that Glendon aims to instill in its students. As a liberal arts college, Glendon produces journalists, authors, economists and policy advisors. These people have considerable influence within their occupations. Consequently, when a considerable portion of these graduates are white, they uphold white spaces which further exclude people of colour and their narratives from such areas of influence.
This is not to say that the study of Liberal Arts is useless. Liberal Arts, and especially the social sciences, are necessary to produce leaders and critical thinkers. These areas of study provide students with a range of skills and methods of thinking that may not be developed by a STEM-oriented education.
It is also worth noting that course curriculums at Glendon often do make an effort to challenge white supremacy and class privilege (ex. the love of Marx at York). However, this is left within the curriculum. There is little if any effort to diversify the incoming student population, faculty, or staff. Reflective of the student population, the faculty, staff, and often guest lecturers on campus are also overwhelmingly white. There should be efforts to further diversify not only the student population, but also the faculty. Often educators of colour have expertise and specializations regarding race and ethnicity that white professors may be lacking. With a lack of diversity, a liberal arts education continues to give students perspectives from the ivory (white) tower.