Black faculty feeling optimistic about UW’s anti-racism work

Their expertise is being centred in the anti-racism taskforce

Despite the University of Waterloo record of missing the mark on anti-racism and equity, members of the Black faculty are feeling optimistic about the future. The President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART) have centred around their expertise and have increased the work pace in the last month.

Dr. Kofi Campbell, a member of the Black Faculty Collective (BFC) that formed last summer, was skeptical about the anti-racism work. He was worried it would be a performative action meant for PR. It didn’t help that the regular meetings they expected to have with the president never happened. And they say the president took their work without giving credit.

The list that he put out to the press was almost verbatim the list that we had,” Campbell said.

(Dr. Kofi Campbell. Photo courtesy of the Black Faculty Collective)

The group had sent the president an email prior to their meeting last year. Campbell shared the email with InsideWaterloo. The letter itself is quite lengthy, but in it, the collective criticized the university for not consulting with them on PART.

“Some of us are internationally respected anti-racist consultants to universities and organizations but our work has never been used, recognized or accepted by UW’s central administration,” the email said.

“Now, through the Associate Vice President of Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion, you have asked a few of us, and by extension all of us, to help you on a task force designed to do some of things we have begged you to do for years. This irony is not lost on us.”

Being excluded from PART has brought UW’s Black faculty together, the email said.

“The one positive outcome from this process, however, is that it has brought UW’s infinitesimally and disproportionately small number of Black faculty together in solidarity.”

Campbell drew attention to their renovation commitments section, which looks to be where Hamdullahpur sourced his promises from.

“Renovation Commitments

  1. We request that you immediately require all administrative offices on campus to be diverse. There should be no Dean’s Office or any other office that is run by or steered by all white people.
  2. We request that you commit to increasing the Black faculty yearly for the next 2 years by 100% each year. Sadly that would mean only 3 hires next year.
  3. We request that you commit funds and resources to the establishment of a Black Studies Program and a Black Cultural Center.
  4. We request that every University committee that has the power to determine policy contains 50% BIPOC individuals.
  5. We request that the University policies undergo an immediate ‘equity review’ and that changes are in place for approval by the Board of Governors by the next cycle.
  6. We request that the university make official ‘Black Body Acknowledgements’ in the same way that we acknowledge that the land we are on belongs to our Indigenous communities
  7. We request that you write and offer for our approval the University’s policy on equity which will be included in the boilerplate of every syllabus, and includes a code of conduct, and steps/actions which will be taken if these codes are violated.
  8. We request that you cease and desist from sending Black students to RAISE as a means of addressing systemic racism on our campus — that is not their function nor should this burden and responsibility be placed on them.
  9. We request a meaningful public apology for the oversights you have made in the process of understanding and speaking to anti-Black racism so far and commit to doing better on behalf of students, staff, faculty, and our community.
  10. We request an immediate statement on anti-Black racism to be issued from the University in consultation with us and others.
  11. We request that you immediately restore the archive of your June 6 announcement banning the N-Word. UW’s documented actions in relation to anti-Blackness must be in clear view.
  12. We request that you create a Transitional Year Program for Black high school students, beginning with the WRDSB and WCDSB, to be launched in the 2021-2022 academic year.
  13. We request that all students be required to take one decolonization/Black studies/anti-racism course throughout their academic careers.
  14. We request that BASE President and Vice-President roles be instituted as a University funded co-op placement, and that there be an anti-Black racism subset of RAISE.
  15. We request that the HREI design and implement an anti-Black racism complaint resolution mechanism to address anti-Black racism complaints.
  16. That UW follow the lead of Queens, Ryerson, U of T and Ryerson and 230 other institutions, and commits to an institutional membership to the National Centre for Faculty Development and Diversity.“ *

“We would be okay with not getting credit if they would do the damn work, right?” Campbell said.

University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur put out a statement last August with recommendations that PART would follow through with. They were based on conversations he had with BIPOC members of the community. That was met with criticism after RAISE (Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity) and the ISC (Indigenous Student Centre) said they weren’t even consulted.

He issued a statement to the Waterloo Region Record clarifying who he had those discussions with. Over 60 BIPOC individuals were part of those discussions. The Black Faculty Collective was mentioned, but not credited for the list.

However, the BFC made it clear that their issues were with the senior administration and not Dr. Charmaine Dean, the executive designate and PART coordinator. They may have had issues with PART’s organization structure (it’s not an efficient one) and student groups like RAISE being left out of discussions, but Dean was their ally. She was listening and doing more than any other senior administrator.

“She’s an outstanding administrator, “ Campbell said. “She’s someone who can actually get things done quickly and she can move quickly. So, the fact that this work is not being done quickly, I think, tells you that this is not really because of Charmaine.”

In an email, Dean said several members of the Black Faculty Collective were integral to PART’s work and its various projects. Although she was of the opinion the work was moving quickly.

“Many of the concerns shared by the Black Faculty Collective have shaped the work of PART throughout its initial conception, the wide-ranging campus discussions and now the working groups and implementation teams,” Dean wrote.

Dr. Christopher Stewart Taylor, another BFC member, pointed to Dr. Kathy Hogarth’s role as PART’s main anti-racism advisor as a major turning point for the group. Hogarth was another member of the BFC, and Dean had appointed her personally in January.

(Dr. Christopher Stewart Taylor. Photo courtesy of the University of Waterloo)

“Having her in that space –” Taylor said, “now we have a very clear understanding of what’s happening, and where we need to position ourselves within the institution to get particular things done.”

With this in mind, he was viewing the work as to have officially started in January. He did sympathize with concerns about transparency and progress. In the process of this work, Taylor welcomed and encouraged students to keep pressing the institution, himself included.

“Be weary and wary of people saying, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna get done.’ No. Keep on checking. Keep on asking. And that’s where it comes down to this lack of transparency; lack of communication. There has to be an open line of communication between all parties so people can see what’s happening.”

With Hogarth advising PART, they would be looking into the long-term plans of this work. He vouched for how quickly things were now moving. Taylor wasn’t in a position to divulge more of what was happening behind the scenes, but did assure that work was happening. Could it be further along? As Horgath put it, in an email exchange:

(Dr. Kathy Hogarth. Photo courtesy of the Black Faculty Collective)

“PART is the institutional attempt at confronting racism at the University of Waterloo. It is far from perfect but it signals the institution’s willingness to take action in ways they had not done before. We are seeing some gains. Is it anywhere close to where we want to be/ should be? No! In the language of the Black Faculty Collective, many of the actions that are taking place now, or planned through PART are renovations that should have taken place decades ago. So, we acknowledge that we are not where we should be but we are working.”

*The email was edited down for brevity.

Meanwhile, student group RAISE reports that they haven’t been engaged at all in UW’s anti-racism discussions, despite having years of experience advocating for racial justice and equity.

And the coordinator of the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce provides an update on their progress.


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