In 2020, the UNBSU began to enact the Diversity Action Plan, a detailed action plan to create a more diverse and inclusive academic community and to address the issue of various forms of discrimination against minority groups within the university.
UNB already has a similar plan in place called the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion plan, but the SU decided it would be better to also have one for the Student Union. The UNBSU decided to commit to transforming the policies, structures, and practices that have led to the exclusion of some members of the community.
“A Diversity Action Plan is a guide that identifies barriers to minority groups of students, ideas from representatives of the groups to increase equity and break down those barriers, and commitments to action from the developers of the plan, which in this case would be our UNB Student Union,” said newly elected Vice-President Advocacy Téa Fazio.
At UNB, many international students report that they feel like their voices are not heard and their ideas are ignored when they try to contribute in their classes or in situations where they are working in teams. This has prompted many of them to withdraw from socializing and has resulted in lower participation in their classes.
“I had to work in a team for one of my classes and it was one of the worst things ever. My ideas were not considered and my team members repeatedly chose evening times for meetings and, as I am five hours ahead of Fredericton, this was not convenient,” said Bolu Fabamwo, an international student. “It was horrible.”
Fazio explained its importance, stating that UNB has a lot of diversity in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and age. She also noted that groups of students unfortunately do face barriers to feeling “valued, included, and welcomed within our community,” so a plan that recognizes these challenges, and outlines strategies and commitments to increasing equity and improving experiences for everyone, is of utmost importance.
For many, this brings hope and is a sign of development within the UNBSU; however, some cannot help but feel skeptical about whether or not this plan will actually make a difference.
Fazio, however, believes that creating a Diversity Action Plan can make a difference and is an important step toward equitable, meaningful change.
“Consulting with students to understand barriers within our community is the first step towards recognizing and addressing these issues. Working together to develop plans to break down these barriers and committing to real, ongoing changes will make a difference as long as students from all our diverse groups at UNB are included in the process,” she explained.