Addressing Anti-Black Racism – A Message from the AVP of Diversity & Human Rights

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Women in red jacket along stone wall

Indira Naidoo-Harris

Dear University of Guelph Community,

I know the past few weeks have been painful and challenging for our University of Guelph community. Students, faculty and staff across U of G have shared with us emotional, distressing, and troubling experiences of anti-Black racism and discrimination on our campuses. This has left many in our University family feeling angry, alone and frustrated. We are profoundly sorry for the hardships and suffering people have experienced. This is not acceptable. I want you to know we hear you, we take your pain seriously and we are deeply committed to building a strong anti-racist culture at the University.

At the University of Guelph, we aim to Improve Life. This means creating an equitable, inclusive and supportive environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. To truly reach this goal, we must oppose all forms of discrimination and racism on our campus. We must create a space where everyone is respected and has a voice. We have been listening to your calls for help and we are making solid changes to our processes, policies and procedures.

Following up on our 2016 report “Supporting the Needs of Black Students at University of Guelph” as well as recommendations from other equity-seeking groups across campus, the University with the assistance of my office took a number of steps to increase support and foster a culture of inclusion. This included establishing a Cultural Diversity Advisor, training cultural diversity Peer Helpers, creating inclusion committees and an Inclusion Framework, offering workshops and learning experiences in equity and inclusion, and facilitating discussions to encourage a culture of respect. We have also created academic programming in human rights, diversity, critical race theory and equality and offered anti-bias, anti-oppression and anti-racism training.

However, we know we have fallen short. We know that gaps remain and injustices have occurred, affecting members of our Black community and other equity-seeking groups. We need to do more, and we need to do better.

So here’s what we’re doing to build a solid foundation to fight anti-Black racism and discrimination at U of G now, and in the future. The first steps of our plan include:

  • A mandatory online anti-racism training module for incoming students;
  • Working with academic partners to offer a new for-credit, anti-discrimination and anti-oppression course this fall, open to every undergraduate student, that explores concepts of power, oppression, bias, privilege, and anti-discrimination laws and policies. The course code is UNIV*2010 and is available for registration now;
  • Anti-racism, anti-bias, allyship and inclusion education webinars offered to all U of G community members;
  • An Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Enhancement Fund to support campus inclusion efforts;
  • Working with Advancement to fund scholarships for Black and other racialized students;
  • Continuing to follow through with recommendations from the 2016 Supporting the Needs of Black Students Report;
  • Improvements in the collection of equity-based data, and the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion dashboard to monitor our progress.

These are just some of our initial actions to create a strong culture of inclusion at the U of G. The senior leadership is committed to a long-term action plan for change, details of which will be made clear in August when the new President begins her term.

I want you to know that as we work together, we are building a campus community where every member belongs, and is able to learn, live and work in an environment free of racism and discrimination. It is a commitment we are making today, and in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. The work is under way. We are here to help and support you.

If you or someone you know in our university community has experienced discrimination or harassment, or if they have any questions or concerns about their rights, they can contact our office at  dhrinfo@uoguelph.ca Please also visit the Diversity and Human Rights web page for a list of resources and supports.

Indira Naidoo-Harris
AVP,  Diversity and Human Rights