Stories, Comments and Suggestions

We have received a lot of valued feedback from members of the Smith community. This is an integral part of our EDII mission, helping to inform our Task Force and Working Groups.

Your input matters. Please share your experience at Smith your ideas and your opinions — we are listening. Thank you.

Thought worth pondering: under-representation is often a statistical/logical fallacy as outcomes rarely match the demographics of our population. Explaining with an example: 60% of perfect scores (750-800) on SAT math were Asians despite Asians constituting ~5% of American society (see Brookings study cited below) - how does this happen? Here's a possibility: only the "top" Asians make it through the immigration system which selects based on official language fluency, education, and employability - if we had these things in Asia, we were already middle/upper class. And people with the ambition to leave everything behind for better opportunities in a new country are typically highly motivated types that tend to achieve "the American dream". In other words: Asians who make it to North America don't statistically represent "the Asian race"(s) globally - we're comparing the average white vs. the crème de la crème of Asians vs. 200+ years of slavery vs. mixed legal/undocumented hispanics in the US.

Selection effects like this are everywhere. Maybe the upper class of Jewish society had a better chance of leaving Europe mid last century. A staggering 65% of African American children are in single-parent households vs. 41% for hispanics vs. 24% for whites vs. 15% for Asians (see chart from Kids Count cited below). Then there's "Tiger Mother" style Asian/Jewish parenting (as described by Amy Chua) which is effective at producing high test scores - but many Asian/Jewish kids suffer miserable childhoods with low self-esteem, overwork, and constant comparison ("Cousin Jimmy scored higher - why are you so lazy?!").

So even with perfectly non-discriminatory admissions/hiring, we'll still see huge differences in outcomes because they are driven by so many other factors. It's hard to see a lot of bias in OUAC grade submissions + anonymously assessed PSEs without assuming far-fetched conspiracy. My guess: few black/indigenous students make it to admissions/hiring in the first place, and those who do are likely similarly privileged to the rest of us or went through similar selection effects (e.g. immigration) - of course with some remarkable exceptions who overcame tough odds. Also note that the black population is tiny in Canada (only 3.5%, 2016 census) compared to the US (13.4%).

Our misunderstanding of stats leaves us with many blind spots: e.g. ~50% of Google employees are Asian (see their diversity report) vs. ~5% of US population - keeping this in mind, that immigrants are selected for specific industries with talent shortages, can we really expect *all* firms and *all* boards to be "diverse"? The underlying talent pools differ a lot. With arbitrary diversity quotas aren't we literally institutionalizing systemic discrimination by race/gender/etc. based on fatally flawed assumptions about what each industry and its boards "should look like"?

Related example: only ~20% of computer science (CS) graduates are women - so how are firms supposed to fulfill hiring quotas for women engineers? CS admissions is almost 100% based on grades. Women actually score higher grades on average and are more represented in higher education (~60:40 women:men for undergrads at Queen's). It's clearly a matter of choice. Why do we assume that women make inferior choices? Is studying CS somehow superior to biology, psychology, medicine, nursing, education, etc.?

The broader problem: we start with a grand narrative (e.g. racism) which has truth to it - but then we look at everything through a paranoid "equity" lens, imagine conspiracies of "white supremacy" everywhere, and create a "moral panic" that ironically produces more of the very thing we're trying to reduce (racism) - e.g. QuARMS (med school @ Queen's) just introduced race-based quotas.

Another blind spot: why do we assume that a high white population at Queen's = discrimination, but nobody asks why Waterloo is so Asian? 72.9% of Canada is white (2016 census). It might not seem this way to us in big cities, but ironically Queen's might be more representative of Canada's population than other "diverse" schools. Further irony: when we subtract Jewish whites (Asian-like high achieving group), the average white bloke from a small town is not particularly well represented in upper society when weighted for Canada's population. White = rich/privileged doesn't hold up either: Asian median household income is ~30% higher in the US (see Economist article cited below).

Bottom line: a careful analysis of the facts reveals that outcomes are driven by many factors; we have to be very careful with our assumptions; there is a big difference between equality of opportunity (the goal) and equality of outcomes (impossible and quite tyrannical). It is worth including an examination of this and less ideologically charged perspectives on equity issues in the EDII curriculum.

Brookings study:
Kids Count data on single-parenthood:,11,9,12,1,185,13/431
Economist article on model minority:
All other stats pulled from US and Canadian census, Queen's diversity report, and Google answers.

some stats differ in Canada. Most black Canadians are first-generation immigrants and ~46% are of Caribbean origin (2016 census) - this is a very different background than descendants of slaves in the US. Indigenous Canadians are ~4.9% of the population (diverse group that includes many mixed-race descendants): this situation is complex as Canadian governments have limited jurisdiction over schools in first nations reserves (We did try to "fix" them and it didn't go well - remember residential schools?). East/South Asian Canadians are more socioeconomically diverse in Canada because the US H1B visa is a higher bar to clear and Canada accepts many more refugees - yet upwards mobility seems high in this group.

I am a current AMBA student and we are building a networking and a mentorship platform for BIPOC students.

We would like to partner with Queen's and get their support to raise awareness and offer a positive spin on the EDII initiatives. We're geared towards students who are ambitious and would want to continue to grow past the school experience in Corporate Canada.

The committee should make public the specific policy solutions being deliberated so that students, alumni, and stakeholders have the opportunity to provide input and constructive feedback before the policies are finalized.

Commitment to EDII should be a key feature in the search for SSB's new Dean.

I sincerely hope that the EDII Task Force will carefully evaluate policy options with evidence-based methods in a level-headed and rational manner.

There is a lot of [justified] anger about broader political issues. But it's hard to think clearly when we're angry: we create echo-chambers that validate our beliefs and we become vulnerable to oversimplified/ineffective/dangerous solutions like blaming disliked/envied groups (e.g. rich/white people) for broader social problems. It takes some critical thinking/reflection to develop real and effective solutions vs. rushed token-solutions that cause collateral damage and become lost opportunities.

While this may not be popular, it is worth thinking deeply about - especially if it makes us uncomfortable.

Given the BlackNorth Initiative: Signatories commit their companies to specific actions to combat anti-Black systemic racism including hiring goals of at least 5% within their student workforce and 3.5% of executive and board roles being held by Black leaders by 2025. Will the Smith School of Business be making similar commitments?

I don’t believe the EDII challenges that we are facing begin at Queen’s or are (to my knowledge) in any way built into the institution’s social structure—at least not in this epoch. However, they are challenges that higher education institutions can certainly work together to solve to prevent inequity from running further down the pipeline.

My full response here:

I'm a Commerce alumni (class 08). I've read the stories posted on the instagram page and feel many students don't feel like they are being heard, which is why they they have flocked to social media. My suggestion for the taskforce is to set up a public forum where students/alumni and post their recommendations anonymously on what changes should be made to combat the inequality that exists in the program. All suggestions and the committee's response to each one should be made publicly available. We should be asking students what they feel should change, and not dictating what we feel the solution should be. That is the only way for students to feel that their voice is being heard. There needs to be dialogue between the school and the students, not just one way social media posts and official emails. Only when there is full transparency from the school and students have a forum to freely speak up can we find a solution to these issues.

I looked through my yearbook (Class of 2016) and was surprised to see in a class of 400 students, there was ONE Black person. Diversity is not just accepting Chinese/Koreans who sell the model minority myth. I want to see an actual commitment to more diversity in admissions and a requirement in ComSoc exec teams.

Without naming names, I recommend that you assess who you have on this task force because many of these people have been complicit in enabling a destructive culture at Queen’s.

I think this reckoning was a long time coming and I'm guessing that the only reason QSB alumni received the Dean's email dated July 7th, 2020 was because of press surrounding the Instagram account 'Stolen by Smith'. I absolutely applaud Kelly Zou for having the courage to speak out. She has created a safe forum for students to discuss real issues that were prevalent at the school while I attended between 2004-2008. Clearly not much has changed.

What I can't help but wonder is why the school hasn’t actively and successfully addressed this toxic culture in the twelve years since I left Queen's and Kingston. In that time I have come to better appreciate the opportunities created by the school, in part because of its strong ties to centers of Canadian corporate power. I have benefitted from the brand and am grateful for that. I also recognize that the brand signals that I'm a white adjacent minority who understands how to abide by the rules of a broken and systemically racist culture on Bay Street.

If the Smith School of Business cannot reckon with the fact that it is an institution that teaches and breeds modern colonialism then there will be no progress for the next generation. I am hopeful though, because I have already seen other Canadian business schools educate their students about the importance of understanding their place in a global world. And how to be leaders for positive change within it.

Let's see a transparent plan for real action. The Dean's email sent July 7, 2020 reads as an attempt to proactively placate alumni. At least some of us are paying attention to the realities of the world we live in today.

I was unaware of what has been happening in the Commerce program until the email from the Dean arrived. In reviewing the Instagram account mentioned in the email and reading all of the posts, it broke my heart to read the experiences of so many students. I graduated with a Commerce degree many years ago and although I am not a person of colour or member of a minority group, I do recall feeling marginalized by some of the male members in my year. There were a core group of guys who all went to Toronto private schools that made fun of other people during classes. As a female in the program, it felt like female opinions were irrelevant, that good-looking girls had it easier and we were just tokens to satisfy the perception of women being accepted in the business community.

So in reading the posts, I felt the pain of students being ignored, mistreated and having no voice. I never felt like I fit in the Commerce program as I am not by nature competitive. The first day of frosh week we were sitting in the auditorium and were asked to look at the person to our right and then to look at the person to our left. We were then told that only one of the three would make it to graduation. The first couple of years, it seemed like a dog eat dog world where it was every man/woman for themselves. It was only in fourth year, when the majority of courses involved group work, I thought I could survive in a business environment. When I began my career, I remember feeling frustrated at work. The employer’s leadership was autocratic, sexist and it was primarily men in the management positions. I started in a very junior position but worked my way up to management within a couple of years. It was an eye-opener for me when I started interacting with senior management. It became very evident that it was a man’s world and that females were tolerated but not necessarily respected. We were told what to wear, that “facial validity” was paramount and women in management were often paid less than their male counterparts.

The point behind all of this is that what we experience in business school can sometimes reflect what kind of world we are about to enter after graduation. It doesn’t make it right by any means but it becomes an opportunity to see how we as individuals can make a difference in the business world by being an agent of change. The business world has become more accepting of female leadership but it has taken far too long. It is encouraging to see that there are steps being taken by the school to address the issues being raised. Our world is finally waking up to the concept of systemic racism and change in the recruitment methods is a necessity if the school intends to attract the best and the brightest. Privilege needs to be replaced by potential.

Does this video perpetuate a positive culture in the program? Especially after they hosted a racist party? Then tried to subvert the orders and do it again?

Smith Commerce needs a leader who can make difficult decisions. Smith Commerce needs to reconsider its "tone at the top."

I used to take great pride in my school but now all I can say is that I’m ashamed to be associate with it. I hope Smith understands why students felt that their only option was to post their experiences on Instagram. The administration has not provided a safe space to voice their concerns. Smith admins, especially those leading the commerce program, have been complicit on perpetuating a culture of oppression, exclusion, racism and misogyny. I graduated 6 years ago and it pains me to see that very little has changed. I suffered immense mental anguish during my time in Commerce due toxic culture the program breads.

I have just finished by BComm and am currently in the midst of the GDA program. I am a straight white male who went to private school. The major root-issue at Smith, in my experience, is the admission process. It is broken. While I understand that the name/grades/high-schools are stripped away when the admission essays are being reviewed, unconscious discrimination goes far beyond that. The issue is what gatekeepers value as meaningful experiences and credentials during the review process. Their mistakes have serious implications lead to the creation of the type of program that is being described on StolenBySmith. The result of the admission process is that the classrooms are filled with a lot of people who look like me (3 black students in our class of 480, if I am not mistaken.) They are filled with kids who wrote admissions essays about their "service trips to costa rica" (that cost dad 12k) or their "most improved hockey award" (a sport that only the rich can play) or their summer as a camp counsellor (where you had to pay 3k a year for 6 years in order to get the chance to make 1k a summer.) These "credientials" mean that Queen's Commerce is out of reach for most Canadians, and it disproportionally hurts candidates of colour. Worst still, you can just blatantly pay to game the admission process. You can pay an alumni 3k to write your essay for you (real.. AlphaAdmissions, for example) or just tee up a 10k Blyth Grade 12 English summer vacation to get the average up over 87%. So when this is the system, it is no wonder that an extremely toxic culture is formed. It is culture of arrogance, of invincibility and, yes, of racism too. It becomes one big group of white rich kids who think that they are so amazing, that they have scarped and clawed their way into the 'best business school in the country.' White privilege and white exceptionalism are allowed to fester in the halls of Goodes and on the boards of ComSoc "Execs." If this task-force wants to create change and make Smith a better place, it needs to start at the source. Create a class that is based on merit and looks like the best that Canada has to offer, not just richest and whitest. Until then, the cycle of racism and oppression will continue, and there will be more horrific experiences like the ones currently being brought to light. As I learned in COMM 163, "Garbage in, garbage out". Have a great day and I wish this task force the best.

Comment: I encourage you to end the practice of nepotism amongst Smith professors and the administration. Several profs I’ve spoken to have children or spouses that also work for the business school. Some profs are even bold enough to hire their own children as TAs. This is contributing to the diversity problem. There isn’t enough diversity in thought and experiences within the administration, and a contributing factor to this is the fact that so many people are related.

Smith response: Where a familial relationship exists, hiring at Queen’s is guided by the Employment of Relatives Policy.

Hello, I'm a Queen's MBA alum who graduated many years ago and am a visible minority. Thank you for creating the task force as Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Indigeneity, are all important to me in life and in the workplace. I'd like to share my thoughts and suggestions on this subject for the EDII task force to consider.

A. Some thoughts based on my experience as a student and alum

1. Ethnic Diversity

I felt my MBA program class was quite diverse ethnically, as is many MBA programs across the world. "Percentage of international students" is an often published and targeted metric for MBA programs, so ethnic diversity was already expected. Note, however, that "international" doesn't necessarily translate to ethnic diversity, as I had some Russian classmates who were Caucasian. For the most part though, it does correlate.

Due to our ethnically diverse class, I've had some positive moments.

One of the most memorable MBA experiences is when one of my team members was observing Ramadan during the busiest time of the year for us. Our hours to meet and work on assignments had to be constrained at a time where we were already constrained to the max. And yet we survived, thrived, and are better people and business leaders as a result.

Another great moment is during one of our class dinners. I'm not sure how it started, but after singing the Canadian national anthem, many of our classmates stood up, one by one, and sung the national anthem from their home country. It was awesome!

Lastly, one of the funnest ways we celebrated ethnic diversity in our class was to hold potlucks. We all love great tasting food irrespective of our backgrounds, so food is a fantastic way to bring people together.

I did experience some negative moments, however, with Kingston residents. On one occasion, our class was out one night walking between clubs/pubs, and a young Caucasian male started mocking the accent of one of our female Indian classmates. Our classmates, largely led by a Caucasian male, confronted the man. Thankfully, the incident did not become physical. On another occasion walking downtown by myself and during the day, an older Caucasian couple inexplicably bumped into me and then sneered as they passed by. I can only assume it was because of my race as I had never interacted with them before.

Further, there was a lack of ethnic diversity among the staff and professors. There were no people of colour among the staff and only a handful among our professors.

2. Sexual/Gender Identity Diversity

I can't recall anyone who was openly part of the LGBT+ community among my class or staff.

3. Socioeconomic Diversity

I feel there are two large groups who attend Smith (and Queen's, in general): those who personally find the resources (through savings, loans, scholarships) to pay for school and those who come from wealthy families. Even though my class did not strongly divide based on ethnicity, it felt like we divided according to socioeconomic class where those who went to private high schools or came from wealthy families socialized with each other more. I do not come from a wealthy family and I found it intimidating to go to school with those whose parents had donated a large enough sum to the business school to be recognized on the donor wall. This created an air of exclusion and inferiority. They also didn't seem to take the career search process as seriously as others which were also bothersome as it took away from a collaborative atmosphere. Those with more means also tended to have better living conditions and ate healthier which ultimately affects the overall student experience.

B. Recommendations

My first suggestion is to more clearly and impactfully communicate what EDII translates to for business leaders. For example, to me it means more enriching classroom discussions. It means a more diverse alumni base with more connections to non-traditional sectors and companies. It means I'm better equipped to lead diverse, multi-national, and remote teams. Gather and share stories from students, alum, staff, and companies that hire from Smith, so we collectively and continually reinforce the importance of EDII. Let's go beyond basic metrics like "percentage of international students", otherwise the attempt at EDII is just there for optics. Let's turn EDII into a proactive strategy rather than a reaction to the political climate.

Then, put this into action by increasing diversity in terms of ethnicity, sexual/gender identity, and socioeconomic status among applicants, students, staff, and professors. In addition to the international recruitment fair circuit, you can partner with high schools in lower income and racialized neighbourhoods to promote Smith. Also, you can work with community agencies that service particular ethnic groups for promotion. Further, Smith and the Career Advancement Centre should favour working with companies that have active diversity and inclusion programs.

Work with these companies as well as alum to financially support EDII initiatives.

I've been working with Commerce students for almost 10 years now.

Although I have not experienced these things directly, I've heard about some troubling things with the Commerce student clubs. Namely, the clubs are very competitive to get into and this affects your social standing as well as your career prospects. It affects your social standing because those who belong to the more prestigious clubs (Queen's Marketing Association and Queen's Accounting Association, for example) are held to a higher regard and this creates cliques similar to in high school. This carries forward during recruiting. I've heard of Commerce alum who return as recruiters and favour those who were in the same clubs as them.

Assuming these to be true, this creates a perpetual problem where those in certain clubs get hired into roles which them give them an opportunity to hire from those clubs. When we look at the racial make-up of QMA, 17 of the 23 team members appear to be Caucasian. With QAA, 15 of the 22 team members appear to be Caucasian. This then favors Caucasian students to be hired.

My main point is to examine the contribution of clubs toward exclusion and work with them and the Commerce Society to develop processes and policies that work toward inclusion.

1. Incorporate education on racism and aspects that perpetuate it bias/colorblindness/stereotype/stigma - not sure if the communications course is still a part of the curriculum but that and ethics course would be a potential area

2. invite speakers that promote conversations on reconciliation or anti-racism for workshops that students can sign up for

I hope you're listening now. It is unacceptable that it has taken this much pain and hurt for you to step up and do your job. As a QComm alumni, I am truly disappointed in your actions and behaviour. The Smith School of business has for too long fostered and encouraged a culture of discrimination and used it to its advantage. It's time you seriously re-evaluate your staff, clubs & committees, and most importantly your admission process.

The fact that you have such a disproportionate amount of Toronto private school students is not a coincidence. They did not properly earn their way into the program and you're actively taking their money and turning a blind eye to their racism and discrimination. By doing this, you have a direct hand in hurting so many people.

In my four years of the program, I saw and/or heard shocking stories from students. It's not a one-off instance, it is the culture you have allowed to be created. There is a reason @stolenbysmith has gained so much traction. It's because people connect with the truth and this is the Smith School of business' truth.

I hope that both of you truly understand the impact of your actions. Not only the past actions which have caused this to be a reality, but your current ones which can be boiled down to blanketed statements with no real impact. I strongly urge you to re-evaluate yourselves and the program. It's literally your job to make ALL students feel welcome, prosperous, and confident. Not only the ones who line your pockets with money.

First, I would direct you to the PICRDI Report, and the 2018-19 Annual Report of same. We, as an institution, have grappled with the same reoccurring issues year after year. Once a racist incident makes the news we have a knee-jerk reaction to investigate and make recommendations to address the issues. But the issues have not changed...and we have not addressed them in any meaningful way. If fact we, in many ways, have gone backwards.

With regards to international students - the intercultural competence work that Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) was once nationally known for was mostly dismantled -what remains is a watered-down check-the-box program that has little benefit (as evidenced by the current situation). This was once a program that brought international AND domestic students together to learn about cultural difference, intercultural communication AND to meet and work with culturally-different others as a way to foster intercultural and inter-racial dialogue and maybe even friendship and respect. There is NO cultural adjustment training or mentoring being done centrally for new international students, as was once done, again, by QUIC. How do we expect newly arrived international students, from very different cultures, to know culturally-appropriate behaviours for those regular day-to-day interactions they face. They don’t and this ends up adding to their marginalization and being “othered” by the domestic population. A few faculties have put resources into supporting their own students in this regard, but it is inconsistent and only offered to those 2 or 3 faculties that have implemented this type of support. No one unit oversees this support, the incumbents in these roles report to managers that do not understand their work and can therefore not offer any constructive feedback or direction.

Queen’s has to address these issues systemically because it requires an institutional mind-set change. Not only should faculty and staff receive anti-racism training but every student should be required to take, in their first year, a social justice course which includes topics like Canada’s Multi-cultural Framework, bias (unconscious and conscious), stereotyping, racism, intercultural communication, engaging with difference, inclusion (which is very different than diversity) where they not only learn about these issues but can experience them in class with simulations, activities, etc. The hope being that this will change their behaviour outside of the classroom as well. Just think, if we actually took the bull by the horns and piloted this for 4 years we would have an entire graduating undergrad cohort that had at least one university course that offered students theory and language regarding racism and discrimination, some tools to identify and combat it, taught them to be mindful in their interactions with others, and might even produce graduates who are better prepared to join a culturally diverse workforce. To not take this type of bold action sets up for more of the same...and another investigation or task-force the next time we hit the news stand.

An apology was extorted from a majority of Indian international [mba] students for merely requesting an additional scholarship and/or funding. We were told we needed to apologize and send an email or our admission will be rescinded... after a lot of us had secured visas and made plans to move including paying a deposit among other things. We were left with no option but to write an apology none of us felt we should have to and something like this would never have been asked from white students. It was pretty shameful conduct from ppl very high within the organization who used our international status and our request for funding to bully us and extort an apology. Following the forced apology [we were sent] an email telling us how to behave white without saying that in as many words. Considering there wouldn’t be a program without us it was particularly distasteful.