More black profs needed at U of O, students say

Some of the dozens of students at a town hall on racism on campus said there aren't enough black professors there to make black students feel welcome.

Dozens of students attended town hall with school's president

Jade Sullivan says she's been told by professors she's 'too dark' to be sitting at the back of classrooms because they can't see her. (Hillary Johnstone/CBC)

Some of the dozens of students at a town hall on racism on the University of Ottawa's campus said there aren't enough black professors there to make black students feel welcome.

"I have professors tell me I'm too dark to sit in the back and they can't see me," said Jade Sullivan, 21, the first student to speak to the crowd at the Wednesday night event that included president Jacques Frémont.

After her remarks, Sullivan told CBC she hasn't had a single black professor during her time at the university.

"I've been taking five to six courses every semester for three years … That says a lot. And I'm in two different faculties, so I should have at least run into one."

Dozens of people attended a Nov. 20 town hall to share personal experiences of racism and discrimination on campus. (Hillary Johnstone/CBC)

Student groups and university educators have been urging the school to take a tougher stance on racism, following two high-profile incidents this year where black students were treated unfairly on campus.

A report into the first said race was a factor and the security guard involved in the second no longer works on campus.

Luciana White, 20, said she's happy to see the university president holding town hall events, but there is still more work to be done.

"When I walk the streets of this university, I see a lot of black students … and the black community is producing a lot of academics," she said.

"So the onus is not on the black community to create more academics, because that is happening. I truly believe the onus is on the administration."

Luciana White, 20, says the onus is on the school to hire more black academics. (Hillary Johnstone/CBC)

The town hall is part of Frémont's initiative called the Presidential Advisory Committee for a Discrimination-Free Campus.

The committee will take major themes from it and other town halls, then offer recommendations.

Other students who spoke at the event shared stories of racism and discrimination they have experienced on campus.

Dami Mafe is a fourth-year international student from Nigeria. (Hillary Johnstone/CBC)

Dami Mafe, a fourth-year international student from Nigeria, said she feels the university doesn't do enough to help black students thrive.

"It's very demoralizing. [In Ottawa], I'm black. Here, because of the colour of my skin, I'm treated differently … Back home, I'm just a woman … but then here it's like, I'm just black."

Jade Sullivan, a third year student taking a double major at the University of Ottawa, says she's never had a black professor despite studying across two different faculties.  1:05