Ethnography of the University / Ethnography of the University: Focus on Diversity 2021 / Undergraduate Ethnography

The Work We Do Is Not for the University, By Nana Koomson (Ethnography of the University 2021: Focus on Diversity)

This blog post was part of the coursework for the Ethnographic Practicum course, “Ethnography of the University 2021: Focus on Diversity.” It was originally posted in the category “Doing Diversity Work.”

While doing ethnographic research on how students perform diversity work at the University of Toronto, I discovered that students see themselves as diversity workers. However, they do not believe the University credits or supports them for the work they do. This results in frustration because student leaders feel as though much of the work they do benefits the University.

The Afro Dance and Culture Club (ADC) is a student-led group within the University of Toronto that aims to create spaces for Black students. The club teaches Afro dance classes and hosts cultural awareness discussions on important topics that impact the Black community.

To discover how students perform diversity work within the University, I had a conversation Amy, the former president and founder of the club. Amy created the club in her second year after feeling the lack of spaces to express herself through Afro Dance. While she did not create the ADC for the sake of the University, she noted that it does improve the University’s image: “we make them look good.” This observation made her angry because she felt that the University did not truly recognize or support the work she did. As she explained “I don’t even know what recognition would look like. I never expect much from the University. You have to create your own space”. She then added, “We should expect more from them. It [our work] should not just be us helping them.”

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