Calgary

Open letter to MRU signed by hundreds calls for more action against racism as school president pledges change

Hundreds of people have signed an open letter demanding Mount Royal University administration commit to actively addressing racism on campus. 

'We want all faculty to attend mandatory training and courses in anti-racism'

Mount Royal University is recommitting to addressing racism on campus after getting criticized for its handling of the issue so far. (Google)

Hundreds of people have signed an open letter demanding Mount Royal University administration commit to actively addressing racism on campus. 

The letter dated June 30 was issued after a public statement from the school on the issue that some students said didn't go far enough. 

On June 1, MRU president Tim Rahilly posted on Twitter: "I want to acknowledge that many members of our campus community are struggling due to racist incidents, and the strong community response during the past week — I share your deep sadness, anger and confusion."

Ayah Ali Abdalla, the letter's primary writer, wanted to see a more comprehensive action plan from school officials.

"They didn't condemn police brutality or how it affects people in Canada or in the U.S. They didn't admit to institutional racism that exists on our campus — and we know it's there."

The open letter outlines several recommendations for addressing racism and social inequity.

It calls for "a plan or detail of the immediate development of a proposal, regarding how the institution will commit to addressing police brutality and anti-Black racism through scholarly and outreach activities, as well as how the school will address these issues, and racism and social inequities more broadly."

The letter also calls on MRU to offer more instruction through courses and workshops to students that give instruction on structural racism and its impacts on Black and Indigenous people and people of colour (BIPOC).

"The development of ethnic studies and Black studies is long overdue at Mount Royal University and would reflect the institution's aim to decolonize and educate the campus," the letter says.

And the school should hire and retain more faculty of colour, Abdalla told CBC News.

"We want all faculty to attend mandatory training and courses in anti-racism. We also want to create a more effective initiative where students can safety report racism on campus," she said.

Rahilly put up a blog post on June 5 in which he described how recent events have been weighing on him. 

"Should there be any doubt about what I think about racism, I believe racism exists and that it does manifest itself in Canada, and no doubt in our own campus community," he wrote.

"I don't have all the answers to how we will accomplish this at MRU, but I know that dialogue is the first step. I look forward to the conversation, and the action that will follow."

Earlier this month, Rahilly went further, announcing that a new presidential advisory committee — made up of faculty, staff, students and alumni who have experienced racism — will guide the school's future actions on the issue.

"You can expect more progress and communication in the weeks ahead," he said.

With files from Hala Ghonaim

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