In response to several racist incidents that included the torching of an African students’ club bulletin board, Ryerson University appointed an anti-racism task force four years ago to identify the structures that perpetuate systemic racism and make sound recommendations.
In its 107-page report released in February 2010, the task force concluded that systemic racism is pervasive on the urban campus and proposed, among other things, the appointment of a vice-president or vice-provost for equity, diversity and inclusion.
The downtown university administration took this recommendation seriously and has named American Dr. Denise O’Neil Green as its first assistant vice-president/vice provost of equity, diversity and inclusion. She assumes the post on September 1.
Ryerson associate professor, Dr. Grace-Edward Galabuzi, co-chaired the task force with Dr. Eileen Antone of the Oneida of the Thames First Nation.
“As an urban university, Ryerson is uniquely positioned to lead on equity and diversity,” said Dr. Galabuzi who has been at Ryerson since 2003. “We believe that, working with the Ryerson and the broader Toronto community, Dr. O’Neil Green will be a successful equity leader and we look forward to working with her and introducing her to the community. We hope she will benefit from the support of the Toronto and African-Canadian community as she assumes her important responsibilities to build Ryerson into a truly inclusive university in which people of all backgrounds can live up to their potential and excel.”
O’Neil Green is leaving Central Michigan University (CMU) where she has spent the last five years as associate vice-president for institutional diversity.
“I have always had an interest in living in another country,” O’Neil Green told Share. “My family and I visited Toronto when I was in graduate school at the University of Michigan and it was always a very wonderful experience being there. The people were very friendly and I found the city to be very diverse.
“When I saw the advertisement posted for this position, I thought it would be a good idea to throw my hat in. I was thrilled when I got the call for the interview…This new position provides me with an opportunity to really have a mandate to execute policies and practices to ensure the campus has diversity, equity and inclusion as a top priority.”
O’Neil Green plans to move to Toronto later this month and spend August settling in her new environment with her son, Michael, who is a paraplegic after being involved in a hit-and-run accident with a drunk driver two years ago. He will enrol in Ryerson.
Under O’Neil Green’s leadership, CMU’s diversity department received nearly $1.8 million in grant funding to support low income and first-generation college students and a centre for inclusion and diversity was established. She also worked with external constituencies on local diversity initiatives and oversaw the Office of Multicultural Academic Student Services, the Office of Diversity Education, Native American and pre-college programs and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer services.
More than 100 candidates applied for the Ryerson position and O’Neil Green was selected by a search committee comprising university students, professors, administrators and union representatives.
“She really impressed everyone,” said Julia Hanigsberg, the university’s vice-president of administration and finance. “She has a deep knowledge around diversity, equity and inclusion and her approach, demeanor and sense of how important students are and how important collaboration would be in a setting like this stood out. We were wowed by her.”
O’Neil Green’s commitment and dedication to diversity and inclusion has had an impact beyond her campus community. She has authored or co-authored nearly 60 articles, books, book chapters, reports and papers and lectured on topics related to racial diversity and equality, race and gender and best practices in implementing diversity initiatives.
A University of Chicago graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioural Sciences, O’Neil Green earned her Master’s in Public Affairs in Domestic Education Policy from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs and her PhD in Higher Education and Public Policy with an emphasis in diversity from the Centre for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
BY RON FANFIAR