Wilfrid Laurier University strives to end campus racism with new report
'In order for us to actually address racism on the campus, we need to understand how it's operating'
Canadian colleges and universities are one step closer to ending racism on campus, according to the director of diversity and equity at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Laura Mae Lindo released a report Tuesday, which includes a list of things post-secondary institutions can do to address racism. The report is a compilation of thoughts that were expressed during an anti-racism event held at the university last March.
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"There are a number of groups and organizations that have put forward calls to action, but oftentimes calls to action are kind of left on their own. So nobody knows exactly how to plug in or what we can do to actually get to this vision."
1. Task force
Establish an anti-racism task force to compile and analyze past and current reports on racism in post-secondary education.
"It's not enough to say that we value anti-racism practices or that we value student voices and being able to provide people with a space to tell us when they feel they are encountering racism on their campuses, but there has to be accountability within the institutions to be able to do this work."
2 & 3. Training
Develop and deliver anti-racism training for senior administrators as well as training for faculty on an annual basis.
"There are gaps in the way that people understand how racism operates and there are gaps in the way that people understand what anti-racism work or racial justice work would actually look like on our respective campuses, and senior administrators as well as faculty need specialized training in order to be able to address that."
Build a sector-wide, online community of practice.
"The practice would be anti-racism and it's a community that's focused on anti-racism work. So that network would be able to provide articles about things that are going on, best practices documents, shared experiences on the ground, what's worked and what hasn't... so that you could have a greater opportunity of success, I guess, when doing this work."
Implement a sector-wide anti-racism policy.
"We can do our work better within our institution if there's something stronger, a policy that exists that we can sort of hook ourselves into - that we can hang our hat on, as some might say - and so the goal would be for us to work together to create an anti-racism policy that helps to guide the entire sector."
In order for us to actually address racism on the campus, we need to understand how it's operating. I don't think we can come up with any kind of a solution if we don't actually understand the nature of the problem.- Laura Mae Lindo
Although Lindo admits that a report isn't going to solve racism, she does think that a strategic plan that is "long-term, sector-wide and inter-university and colleges" provides hope, because it is different from previous attempts to address the problem.
"I know historically that when we've tried to address racism we've often couched it in terms of diversity work, but diversity work isn't the same as anti-racism work," she said. "We have to come to a place where we're comfortable with being a bit uncomfortable - comfortable with naming the experience that our students and faculty and staff are having as racism. Once we're able to name it as such, we can start to get more viable solutions."
She said the diversity and equity office is about more than just hosting summits and writing reports. They want to put these ideas into action, but it is going to take time.
"In order for us to actually address racism on the campus, we need to understand how it's operating. I don't think we can come up with any kind of a solution if we don't actually understand the nature of the problem," she said.
"Even though that may take a little bit of time for us to be able to train folks up, I think it's important for us to be able to recognize that those that are in power at the institution have to understand how racism is operating in order for them to be able to make the choices that would better support their students."