UBCO event asks if diversity hiring has 'lost its way' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UBCO event asks if diversity hiring has 'lost its way'

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The latest political football in North America’s culture wars is the controversial topic of discussion at a UBC Okanagan event in Kelowna tonight.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, known as DEI or previously known as affirmative action, is an effort by corporations and governments to ensure underrepresented people can make their way into non-traditional roles.

Elon Musk has recently taken to his platform X to deride the initiative and Texas has issued an outright ban leading to firings of diversity hires. The term itself has been weaponized on social media and in political circles.

Now UBCO is bringing two scholars to discuss the subject, asking if DEI has “lost its way” but don’t confuse this with social media hot takes and political rhetoric, says assistant professor Renaud-Philippe Garner, who helped organize the event.

“I'm sure people will learn things they did not expect,” he says. “I think that's one of the great things about these events is when you have a good exchange like this with proper experts who are being intellectually honest and charitable and thorough, is that it's very hard to come out with all your expectations confirmed. Very often you learn something counterintuitive or something surprising.”

The event features two scholars studying DEI. Paolo Gaudiano from New York University will present his findings from the private sector in the U.S., while Azim Shariff will speak on his research within the context of the university itself.

Garner expects they will have different, perhaps opposing takes on the question at hand before being grilled by students and a Q and A with the live and online audiences.

The event — not a formal debate — is new for UBCO, supported by a new affiliation with Heterodox Academy, which promotes discussion and inquiry into such touchy subjects, which is the point.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, these topics that are very important, they basically get reduced down into things like partisan soundbites,” Garner says. “And so given that there's a real debate about whether it works, how it works, in which context it works, when it doesn't work, what makes it work or fail, the fact that we don't often have access to these better quality conversations means that we thought it was a good opportunity to seize upon that…. We all hear about it, but it's very hard to have the conversations that we should or need to have if we're going to be engaging with it.”

While the scholars may vary in their support or criticism of enforced diversity, what they are bringing is research and facts to inform conclusions, which is often missing in the broader discussion.

“Social media conversations might be a nice shortcut for bad conversations,” Garner says. “And they unfortunately have taken a very big place in public life. And so let's try to have something maybe at a bit of a slower pace, a bit more of an adult exchange and one that we're really trying to listen carefully to someone else before jumping to a response.”

The event begins at 6 p.m. Friday, April 5 at the Mary Irwin Theatre at the Rotary Centre for the Arts. Tickets are $10 but free for students.

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