U of O strikes anti-racism action committee
Committe's work will be 'critically important' in wake of N-word incident, says president
The president of the University of Ottawa is promising change with the formation of a new committee in response to a public clash between some faculty and students over academic freedom and the use of the N-word in class.
In October, students signed letters criticizing some faculty members who came to the defence of part-time University of Ottawa professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval, who used the N-word in class. She later apologized.
The professors acknowledged the importance of dismantling systemic racism, but said the school must also protect academic freedom. Some students called their letter "appalling" and said the use of the N-word directly harms Black people.
In a statement to the University of Ottawa's senate on Monday, president Jacques Frémont said the debate has created "deep internal divisions that have strained relationships and, in some cases, friendships, not only among faculty but also among our support staff.
"This cannot be ignored, and we must take steps to heal our community," said Frémont.
In response, he said he's dissolving his advisory committee on anti-racism and inclusion, and replacing it with an action committee on anti-racism and inclusion that will do "critically important" work.
The new committee will be made up of BIPOC/equity-seeking and diversity students, faculty and staff," according to the statement. Two members will be appointed from the university's board of governors.
The committee will have a range of roles including reviewing and assessing school programs and practices to understand how they contribute to systemic racism, said Frémont. Nominations begin Tuesday.