Diversity quotas at University of Manitoba 'a good plan,' students say

Two University of Winnipeg students are praising a new affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Manitoba's faculty of education.

University of Manitoba plans to set aside 45 per cent of faculty of education spots for 'diversity categories'

Two University of Winnipeg students are praising the University of Manitoba education faculty's new affirmative action policy. The move is an attempt to make teaching staff more diverse, representatives said. (iStock)

Two University of Winnipeg students are praising a new admissions policy designed to promote diversity at the University of Manitoba.

The University of Manitoba education faculty will set aside 45 per cent of its spots for students belonging to "diversity categories" starting in 2017, university representatives said earlier this month.

"I honestly think it's a good plan," said Ivana Yellowback, a Cree student studying criminal justice and conflict resolution at the University of Winnipeg.

Yellowback said growing up, she never had an indigenous teacher in school, and the only people who looked like her were other students.

"It's just something that is so normalized … to not see someone of your heritage," she said.

Evan Wiens, an LGBT activist and political science major at the University of Winnipeg, agrees with Yellowback. Wiens did not have any openly gay teachers in school.

"I think all universities should follow suit," he said.

Wiens started the first gay-straight alliance at his Steinbach high school. Straight teachers helped him create the group, he said.

"A teacher doesn't necessarily have to be out, but if they're being supportive," he said, "at the end of the day, that's the most important thing."

University of Manitoba education professor emeritus Rodney Clifton has criticized the affirmative action plan.

Manitoba children are falling behind and need the best teachers they can get, he said Tuesday.

Yellowback said society needs to redefine who the "best" teachers are, explaining that diverse teachers who look like their students can be more inspiring to marginalized young people.