Some students dissatisfied with UWindsor's anti-Black racism initiatives

University of Windsor law student Josh Lamers thinks not enough is being done after the school provided an update on its anti-Black racism initiatives. 

School hired 2 new employees to build anti-Black racism task force

University of Windsor law students Josh Lamers (left) and Natasha Daley (right) have some concerns with the way the school is moving forward with its anti-Black racism initiatives. (Jacob Barker/CBC, Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

University of Windsor law student Josh Lamers thinks not enough is being done after the school provided an update on its anti-Black racism initiatives. 

The university says it has made progress on some commitments it put in place to fight anti-Black racism back in June, when the Black Lives Matter movement called racism on campus into focus. It said some of these initiatives include hiring two people to support an anti-Black racism task force, creating an anti-Black racism website and reviewing the school's equity, diversion and inclusion infrastructure. 

But Lamers says he's seen similar commitments from the school before, none of which led to any real change on campus. 

"I don't think this is effective, I think it's repetitive and again, I think it's boring," Lamers said. 

"I don't think the university actually wants to address what's happening, I don't think the university actually wants to eradicate anti-Black racism. I actually think that they were banking on the fact that, you know, the energy would die down and they wouldn't have to be as responsible." 

The school listed several commitments to its website, which it says are "foundational steps" it is taking toward a "comprehensive long-term strategy."

Student-led campus groups and associations have called for greater action from the University of Windsor to eliminate anti-Black racism on campus. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Some of the steps the university says it has completed as of October include: 

  • Establishing an anti-Black racism working group to advise on the timelines and establishment of initiatives.
  • Creating two support positions: an anti-Black racism strategic planning officer and a special projects coordinator to provide insight to the task force.
  • Finalizing terms of reference, calls for nominations and nomination processes for the anti-Black racism task force, which were launched Friday. 
  • Establishing the university's anti-Black racism website. 
  • Preliminary planning for the external review of equity, diversity and inclusion infrastructure at the university has been undertaken and so has initial research on approaches to racial demographic data collection. 

The university also said on its website: "There is much more to do. A truly inclusive future for the University of Windsor begins with our actions and choices today. We invite all members of the campus community to engage in these efforts." 

Despite the steps the university has taken, law student Natasha Daley says she wants to see changes happening now for the students currently on campus. 

"What are we doing about the anti-Black racism that's taking place right now in our classrooms through Zoom?" she said.

"There's still students who are experiencing different incidents of anti-Black racism, or who have in this past year, but the university has yet to address those specific incidents."

She said the voices of current students are not being heard and she wants to see more viable solutions put into effect immediately. 

New hires optimistic, despite skepticism

Both of the university's newest hires, who began their roles Monday, said they understand the skepticism but are optimistic they can be part of the change students are asking for. 

Marium Tolson-Murtty, the anti-Black racism strategic planning officer, says she needs to go into the role being positive and believing that they can make a change. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

"You do have to come into this with a positive frame of mind. If you want the change to happen you have to be part of the change process," said Marium Tolson-Murtty, the university's new anti-Black racism strategic planning officer. 

"I have to hold the University of Windsor accountable and myself accountable to make sure that we do provide this change on campus."

Meanwhile, special projects coordinator Jeremiah Bowers said he plans to bridge the gap between students, staff and administration to make the campus experience better for all racialized groups. 

Jeremiah Bowers, former president of the university's student union, has been hired on as a special projects coordinator to help develop an anti-Black racism task force for the school. (Submitted by Jeremiah Bowers)

"We're also bringing lived experiences. We're bringing the trauma of being a Black body in a world that doesn't want us in an institution that wasn't built for us," he said. 

Bowers was formerly the president of the school's student union. 

Currently, he said he and Tolson-Murtty are working on developing a task force that is representative of the broad range of racialized communities on campus. 

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.