Last Updated on August 25, 2020 by YGK News Staff
A student at Queen’s University is leading an effort to confront systemic discrimination at the Smith School of Business. Fourth year Commerce student Kelly Weiling Zou took to Instagram to create the page @Stolenbysmith, following years of inaction. The page was inspired by the @Blackatharvardlaw Instagram account, which sought to anonymously share stories of racism at Harvard Law School.
“The purpose of this campaign is to provide a safe and anonymous platform for QTBIPOC to share their experiences with racism, queerphobia, and all forms of discrimination during interactions with students from the Smith School of Business” wrote Zou on the Instagram page. In less than 3 days, the page’s popularity surpassed that of @Blackatharvardlaw, amassing a following of over 7000 people in 4 days. Over 140 accounts of discrimination have since been recorded.
Kelly Zou’s Experience
Zou shares her own experiences on the Instagram page. “My first year in commerce, like many other QTBIOC, was brutal. As a result of the environment of commerce, I developed severe clinical depression, anxiety and was later diagnosed with borderline personality disorder” Zou says.
In her second and third year, Zou tried to engage in equity work, but found that the program has a very specific idea of what equity work looks like. For instance, Zou noted that the recommendations of the Diversity and Inclusivity Coordinator were often ignored or not implemented. “Black and Indigenous organizers are not listened to/prioritized in commerce” says Zou, from her experience engaging in equity initiatives within the department.
More Stories Begin to Arise
Over the following days, anonymous students and alumni began to share their experiences. Examples included being excluded from ComSoc student groups because of their race; students making fun of foreign professors due to their accents; the financial barrier caused by the programs tuition rate; recruiters discriminating students based on their sexual orientation, feeling that they hated being Asian while attending the program. “What I didn’t realize was that unless you are a white male from Toronto with connections from your private school, you weren’t getting a frosh rep position, which meant no boss role and would in turn make things significantly harder for you throughout the program, academically and otherwise. Discrimination was blatant” posted an anonymous student.
Queen’s University responds
Following a surge in its popularity, Brenda Brouwer, the Dean of the Smith School of Business, addressed the experiences felt by current and former students. “Recently a Smith student founded @StolenbySmith, an Instagram account to which student in our Commerce program have been posting experiences of oppression, discrimination and exclusion. The courage of those who have shared their stories is the catalyst for change. It’s imperative that we listen, take responsibility, and commit to meaningful action to cultivate an environment of inclusion, respect and dignity for all.” said Brouwer.
The Dean also contacted all commerce alumni via email to address the situation. “This has been a difficult time for many in the Smith Community, as issues of inequity, oppression, discrimination exclusion and systemic racism have been brought to the centre for us all.” said Dean Brouwer, in an email dated July 7th.
Weiling Zou has proposed to have a meeting with Lori Garnier, the Executive Director of Commerce Program, to discuss her concerns. She has yet to hear back from the department.
The Queen’s Commerce Society has also responded:
While there was some praise for the faculty’s response, students were left feeling like more could be done. “Instead I said I would like to see action in the form of a donation to Black Lives Matter, seeing that there are lacking commitments to support Indigenous and Black students in this program.” said Zou in a comment.
Calls beyond business program growing
Recent Calls to address systemic discrimination has not been limited to the Queen’s Faculty of Business. On June 25th, the Queen’s University Faculty of Law has announced that it would launch consultations on its building name, which is currently Sir John A. MacDonald Hall. “In response to concerns raised in this respect, we are therefore beginning a process of consultation on whether the name Sir John A. Macdonald continues to be appropriate for the law school’s building.” said Mark Walters, Dean of the Faculty of Law, in a statement on their website.
YGK news would like to thank Kelly Weiling Zou for allowing us to write this piece, and Matthew for his contribution to YGK News.