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  • Whose University Is It, Anyway? Power and Privilege on Gendered Terrain
  • Kelly Ward, Professor and Samantha Armstrong
Anne Wagner, Sandra Acker, and Kimine Mayuzumi (Eds). Whose University Is It, Anyway? Power and Privilege on Gendered Terrain. Toronto, ONT: Sumach Press, 2008. 265 pp. Paper: $28.95. ISBN-13: 978-1-894549-75-2.

Throughout the history of higher education, gender, social class, race, religion, and sexual orientation have all, at some point, played roles in the formation and functioning of educational institutions. How individuals experience higher education, depending on their role in an institution, may largely be attributed to their individual context, often shaped by personal demographics including gender. While access to higher education has grown and Canadian universities have become increasingly diversified, many individuals learning and working in the Canadian higher education system still struggle to receive equal treatment from the institution, their colleagues, and their students. Whose University Is It, Anyway? Power and Privilege on Gendered Terrain encourages its readers to question whether Canadian universities are achieving the goals of advancing equity “for all” in light of calls for accountability and excellence while resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Although the context is Canadian, the questions and issues this book raises are relevant to most geographic and institutional settings.

The book is an anthology of 14 essays that enlighten readers about issues of equity and gender and how they continue to significantly impact the experience and achievement of all university stakeholders. Through various forms of qualitative methodology, each author advances a distinctive perspective on the challenges and opportunities that institutional stakeholders face with respect to changing the climate and landscape of Canadian institutions or simply surviving the current environment.

Gender is a core theme for all of the chapters, yet each contributor goes beyond gender to incorporate other aspects of identity and suggest how they impact learning and working in Canadian institutions. Like most edited volumes, some of the chapters are more closely linked to the core theme than others. In a few chapters, gender seems to be more of an afterthought, requiring more effort on behalf of the reader to connect the content to gender issues.

Collectively, the chapters are thought provoking and encourage the reader to think critically about gender issues in higher education. The book is enjoyable and can be read quickly, especially for those with some background in issues of power, privilege, and gender.

Part 1 of the text focuses on how minority women in positions of authority, Aboriginal women pursuing careers in social work, and professional women with disabilities experience the Canadian university.

Part 2 presents four chapters that outline the challenges facing Black scholars, women who have experienced and survived trauma, queer and gendered individuals, and Aboriginal students.

Part 3 contains four chapters written from individuals who are often not acknowledged as contributing to the academic world: teaching assistants, administrative assistants, department chairs, and non-tenure-track faculty. The book is very comprehensive in terms of presenting diverse viewpoints related to multiple gendered perspectives—an aspect that is often missing in volumes related to gender.

In Part 4, the authors focus on strategies that help individuals persist in institutions where numerous challenges and barriers impact their individual situations. While each section presented has a slightly different focus, the authors provide many opportunities for readers to reflect on their personal experiences, consider possible contributions to the current climate of their institutions, and appreciate their stake in improving current working and learning conditions for all.

Whose University Is It, Anyway? invites readers to take a critical look at how institutions that, on the surface, are promoting equity and diversity, are still struggling internally to create environments conducive to equity for all. While ethnic and racial minorities have continued to enroll in college in record numbers and Canadian universities have seen a tremendous increase in female students and female faculty, the adversities that female students, faculty, and staff face in Canadian institutions continue to be overwhelming. Male faculty and students can also face similar adversity based on their sympathizing with gender-related issues. This [End Page 610] book calls on the reader to challenge the status quo and look for ways to improve environments...


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pp. 610-611
Launched on MUSE
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