Should universities collect race-based data?

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For all the talk about diversity, a CBC News investigation has found that most universities don’t have any data about their students’ racial identity.

As part of an investigation of race and racial discrimination at Canadian universities, CBC News discovered that most of the country’s largest institutions have an incomplete picture of the racial diversity within their student populations, with more than 60 schools saying they don’t collect the data.

Human rights advocates and recently the government of Ontario have endorsed the collection of race-based data as a means of uncovering inequality and better understanding the needs of racialized groups. Racialized is a term used to describe people who identify as being part of a visible minority.

Over the past five months, CBC News asked 76 universities from across the country to provide a breakdown of their student populations by race. While some gave more detail than others, most schools couldn’t provide much information about the diversity of their students.

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“If you want to really serve the population, I think you first need to know who’s in your student body,” said Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. “And not just at an eyeballing it sort of way, actually understanding in a much more discrete way.”

She says it isn’t just students who benefit from data collection, but the institutions themselves because they can track the effectiveness of their programs.
What may really be helpful is if there is data about the racial make-up of newsrooms, faculties at universities and schools, bureaucracy, judiciary and in boardrooms of major corporations.

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