This week, I learned about an initiative on campus that aims to foster a more equitable space for our diverse student population. Through being a part of the larger blogger team at Student Life, I learned about a new Equity Policy at Hart House Debate Club from a fellow Student Life blogger: Simrit Khabra! She serves as the Equity Officer on the Executive of the Debate Club, and through our conversation, I learned more about this policy and what it means.
What is your role as Equity Office and what involvement did you have with the Equity Policy?
Simrat: “As Executive Officer, I act as a liaison between the debaters and the executive team. In addition to writing the new equity policy, I serve as an enforcer of the rules in the policy and will be reviewing the policy in the future.”
Why did you think this policy was necessary to implement?
Simrat: “The nature and history of debate makes it a very prestigious activity, which can often become elitist. A lot of social and economic barriers can come in the way of students participating in… a very meaningful activity. For example, debating requires a lot of training and the many of the students doing well have been trained for several years since they come from a higher economic class…. there is also a prominent male presence in debating and also not that many minorities debating, which can seem like an obstacle for many people.”
What do you hope you can accomplish this year as Equity Officer?
Simrit: “I want to make debate a more socially accepting place, because the students who are involved in debate…it’s a huge part of their lives. So making it a comfortable community where everyone has a fair chance to succeed is important, because it will influence who is able to… practice debate.”
What are you hoping that this policy will accomplish or at least move forward with?
Simrit: “I hope it creates more diversity in debate, because we need a variety of voices from people who have different lived experiences… I know it can be difficult for people of color or marginalized communities to be involved in an activity that might not seem open to them. That is unfortunate because I think that debate is something that anyone can try and anyone should get a fair chance at doing well in. It’s a great way to improve confidence with public speaking and learning strong argumentation skills.”
Any final message on the implementation of this policy?
Simrit: “I don’t want this to be a band aid solution to equity issues. Because we aren’t trying to say that now that we have an equity policy, there won’t be any more issues. That is certainly not the case. I just think that having these things in writing makes it more official and makes it easier for us to take action when needed.”
The entire Equity Policy and Code of Conduct is available online to read here: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/553ed281e4b01f5d8a3288b0/t/5ba14d5aaa4a995cfc690b25/1537297754549/HHDC+Equity+Policy+September+2018.pdf