Kitchener-Waterloo

How these 88 steps can help tackle systemic racism at University of Waterloo

A group of students, staff, faculty and alumni at the University of Waterloo is recommending changes to school administration to help address systemic racism on campus.

Anti-racism task force released recommendations; university committed to work

A group of students, staff, faculty and alumni at the University of Waterloo is now working with administration to help implement recommended changes to help address systemic racism across campus. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A group of students, staff, faculty and alumni at the University of Waterloo is recommending changes to school administration to help address systemic racism across campus.

Since the summer of 2020, the President's Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART) has been regularly meeting and consulting with impacted, diverse people on campus.

Last week, PART released their official report made up of 88 recommendations that include implementing an educational toolkit about decolonization, inclusive hiring practices and equitable data collection.

"Our primary goal was to address systemic racism across the community in all of its forms related to the weave, anti-racism into the fabric and culture of all campus operations, community, the teaching and learning of pedagogy and lifestyle," said task force chair Charmaine Dean, vice-president university research and international.

Charmaine Dean is task force chair and vice-president university research and international at the University of Waterloo. 'Our primary goal was to address systemic racism across the community in all of its forms,' she says about the recommendations. (Submitted by Charmaine Dean)

Dean said the university launched PART following a series of incident rooted in racism and inequity. She gave an example of unmarked graves found at or near former residential school sites in Canada.

"This is really about the University of Waterloo making a decision that we're not going to stand on the sidelines and do nothing."

Recommendations

PART was made up of about 90 members and reflected discussions between campus groups such as the Black Faculty Collective, Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre and Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity.

There were nine themes that emerged from the recommendations such as:

  • Policy review: One recommendation includes reviewing all university policy through an anti-racism lens.
  • Decolonizing approaches: One recommendation includes creating a toolkit to provide a basic understanding of decolonizing practices.
  • Engagement: One recommendation includes a guideline about when and how to consult with Indigenous and racialized communities.
  • Campus representation: One recommendation includes ensuring intentional recruitment and retention of Black, Indigenous and other racialized people.
  • Data governance: One recommendation asks the university to develop ethical data collection for various reasons including annual equity survey and research.

There were working teams that made several recommendations that touched on safety on campus, inclusive terminology in school policies, prioritizing research needs of Indigenous communities, better mental health supports and undergoing consultation processes to learn more about barriers and needs of Black, Indigenous and racialized people.

Implementation teams worked to develop Black studies programming, a plan to for better representation and monthly awareness events.

President's response

University president Vivek Goel said in an online statement that he's committed to the success of PART's work.

"The task force has proposed leaders across the University who will be responsible for each recommendation and I look forward to working with these leaders to support them as we work toward implementing the recommendations in the report. I am also committed to ensuring that we have the resources we need for the programs, services, initiatives, and other activities that have emerged from PART."

Dean said a leader was assigned to each set of recommendations to help follow up on progress and implementation.

"This might be very helpful to the president as he looks at this for some report and tries to understand how it will flow through the university body," she said.

Campus community members can discuss the report during the president's forum on May 19.

With files from The Morning Edition

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