UWOFA Equity Champions

UWOFA’s Equity Committee has developed a series of profiles highlighting the perspectives and contributions related to equity among UWOFA members. They are also designed to help facilitate conversations about the ‘everyday’ nature of equity, and inequity, among our members. The profiles will be featured in Faculty Times and on this website.

Treena Orchard
Johanna Weststar
Liz Mantz

Treena Orchard

1.What role does equity play in your work and/or everyday life?

Equity plays a key role in every aspect of my life, whether in the classroom, doing fieldwork, or at yoga- we all need to have a place that’s safe, cared for, and our own. It structures how I put together my courses, all of which engage with different issues that impact the lives of people who are relegated to society’s margins. It is vital for our students, and colleagues who might not delve into these issues very often, to consider how inequity and equity impact the everyday realities of different groups of people. We’re all connected, and not just in a happy social media kind of way, but in a fundamental, messy way that has to do with power, privilege, and the need to speak out and to be heard. Equity streams into all aspects of life, including the yoga studio because it is connected with safe engagement and respecting our respective journeys, mistakes, and desires.

2. Where did your interest in these issues stem from?

Where everything stems from: childhood! My mom was always very caring and mindful of the needs of certain family members who didn’t always get a fair go at life. It was the same with animals- especially cats. Civil rights, the voices of women, and others who had experienced trauma were among the issues she supported and still does. The circles I entered into while spending time with my dad were also very influential and they included women, artists, and Indigenous activists, and feminists from many camps. I also had the opportunity to spend time with kids from diverse socio- racial groups, which was a formative learning experience about how different- and often similar- our lives are.

3. Is Western a supportive environment for equity work/issues?

I have consistently felt supported in my research and teaching about various equity/inequity issues, however, as a white woman with tenure I speak from a very privileged position. Western hasn’t always been as consistently supportive to other faculty, service staff, and administrative members, which isn’t a surprise because like any political institution the university is an extension of the stratified society in which it is situated. However, Western has been more responsive to issues of race and diversity thanks in part to the Black Lives Matter movement and the long-overdue acknowledgment that racism exists on our campus. This is reflected in the formation of the President’s Anti-Racism Working group and Anti-Racism Taskforces in the Faculty of Health Sciences as well as the Social Sciences.

4. What are some of the equity-related accomplishments you’re most proud of?

I’m proud to help reconfigure the discourse about women in sex work, not only in terms of the health risks and structural violence they experience but also their subjectivities as unique people in the world. Understanding how they see their lives is critical to unraveling stereotypes and harmful stigmas. These insights guide my research, activism, teaching, professional interactions, and discussions with family, friends and all people, really! Tracing the career paths of my former students and seeing them become increasingly political and established in jobs where they use some of the things I taught them is particularly special.

5. How about disappointments or unforeseen challenges in your equity work?

The reluctance among certain Civic administrators to support my research with women in sex work and acknowledge its relevance to local social and health policies was frustrating. This has since changed, but for many years I was engaged in emotionally challenging, vital research that was recognized globally and nationally, but not in the city where it matters most. Another thing that’s disappointing is when equity work is seen as sexy, trendy or as something perfunctory or mandatory to include in policy or programmatic initiatives. Framing the lives of the marginalized in these ways can reproduce the conditions in which inequities flourish and make the researchers engaged in this work feel like tokens in a game of institutional chess.

Treena Orchard is co-chair of UWOFA’s Equity Committee and an associate professor in the School of Health Studies.


Johanna Weststar

Equity plays a huge role in my work and life.  I see it, or its absence, everywhere. I’m sensitive to inequity, unfairness and lack of justice across the board.  I get very angry on behalf of others almost every day. I try to use whatever power I have to stand up for them. Usually this is in the context of work and employment because that is my academic field. I have studied worker struggles, unions, labour rights, marginalized workers, unpaid labour and I have been active in union work myself.

I can’t point to a certain event where my interest or sensitivity to equity arose; I think once you become a little bit aware of injustice – in whatever way – it sets you up for seeing it more often and moves you toward your own actions. For sure, I grew up in a household that encouraged me to be critical of ‘the establishment’, to struggle, to call bullshit, and to put myself in the shoes of others. My dad wore feminist buttons and walked the picket line for paid maternity leave. I went to environmental rallies, peace rallies and marches critical of globalization before I even really knew what the issues were all about. And I’ve had some amazing female friends and colleagues who have been activist role models for me, always going one step further than I would have and inspiring me to do more.

I think that most of my accomplishments on the equity front are of the everyday variety. A word here or there in meetings or conversations. Sometimes you have to have the same conversation with the same people many times before you see a change. Sometimes you can’t make a change, but it helps others to know you tried. In terms of some specific things, I’ve hosted a labour film festival on campus a few times that tells the stories of marginalized workers. I teach about the imbalances of power in the employment relationship and the inequities that result. I was part of the UWOFA Negotiating Team's last round that made some gains on gender-neutral language, equity representatives on committees and the needs of Indigenous faculty. At my previous institution a colleague and I helped a woman in a male dominated department challenge a promotion denial. When she won, we all cried happy tears. That was very rewarding.

Most recently, I spoke out against the sexist comments made by Aubrey Dan at the 2018 Fall Convocation. That experience was interesting because a lot of people congratulated me and thanked me for speaking out. But I see that whole incident as an utter failure in the cause of equity. Aside from one other colleague and an amazing PhD student who raised the issue on Twitter, to my knowledge I was the only person on this campus, in this city and among the Western alumni to publicly suggest that is was inappropriate for the Honourary Degree recipient to talk about Playboy in his Convocation address. He never apologized sincerely to my department or Western students. And a few weeks later a plaque with his picture and his achievements was hung at the entrance to my department. I walk past it every day. That is super depressing. Worse is that a similar event happened at the 2019 June Convocation prompting a number of amazing colleagues to write an open letter to the university calling for change.

I’m flattered to be featured by the UWOFA Equity Committee as an Equity Champion, but to be honest, I am learning to ‘do equity better’ every day. And that is why the best equity work and learning is done in groups and with communities. We need to teach each other, listen to each other and support each other. If we all speak out, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Johanna Weststar is an associate professor in the DAN Department of Management and Organizational Studies


Liz Mantz


1. What role does equity play in your work and/or everyday life?

I think as a member of the wider University community, equity is part of everyone’s life, every day.  As an academic librarian, I’m conscious of the need to be reflective and equitable in my approaches to my professional work, and to Western’s faculty and students above all. 

2. Where did your interest in these issues stem from?

I think I was raised to be “fair”, or equitable from a young age.  And certainly my current awareness of equity has been raised substantially by being the parent of two university-aged daughters, both of whose sense of equity in their world and values is alive and vibrant.

3. How important is a diverse university community?

I think the nature of the University is to embrace diversity, and creatively incorporate the perspectives of everyone.  It is in living together and sharing experiences and our own narratives with others that we grow collectively.

4. What are some of the equity-related accomplishments you’re most proud of?

I have had the privilege of chairing the UWOFA Pay Equity Committee for Librarians and Archivists for a number of years. To do valuable work on behalf of my professional colleagues, surrounded by strong, articulate, and dedicated team members, has been a profound pleasure.

Liz Mantz is a subject librarian - History, Reference/Microforms