Windsor

UWindsor's statement on George Floyd death leaves student groups 'disturbed' and 'disappointed'

The University of Windsor issued a statement in response to the death of George Floyd earlier this week, but it's drawing criticism from many — not because of what the school's president said about the black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, but because of what he didn't say.

Former student union president says statement came off as 'hollow'

Following backlash from multiple student groups over a statement issued by the University of Windsor's president in response to George Floyd's death, the school says it is working on initiatives to better deal with anti-Black racism on campus, but it's not clear when those will be announced. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

The University of Windsor issued a statement in response to the death of George Floyd earlier this week, but it's drawing criticism from many — not because of what it said about the black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, but because of what it didn't say.

Many campus groups questioned the University of Windsor's commitment to diversity and inclusion following the release of the school's statement, with student groups calling it shameful, disturbing and disappointing.

"These are painful and difficult times for everyone who believes in and strives toward equality and justice," an excerpt reads. "We are committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion, but we know that our University can and must do more when it comes to the issues." The full statement can be seen below.

Following the statement's publication, a number of student groups, including the Women of Colour Legal Alliance of Windsor, the Middle Eastern Law Students Association and the Windsor chapter of Women and the Law issued responses of their own.

Using similar language, the groups said they were "disturbed" and "disappointed" by the university's statement, saying it "fails to acknowledge any of the following crucial points:" anti-black racism, condemnation of the officers involved in the George Floyd incident, other notable deaths of black people — including Tony McDade and Regis Korchinski-Paquet — overarching police brutality and allegations of discrimination on UWindsor's own campus.

"Dr. Gordon's statement makes no explicit mention of anti-Black discrimination, in fact, not even once is the word "Black" used in the wording of the statement," the responses read.

"Dr. Gordon's words do not address the multiple recent instances of anti-Black racism that have occurred on UWindsor campus nor does he address the University's excessive policing of Black individuals on campus."

The group which drafted the response — ExposeUWindsor — said it had been signed by about 50 student groups, as of Wednesday morning.

Jeremiah Bowers, former president of the University of Windsor Student Alliance, said Gordon's statement came off as "hollow" and failed to acknowledge instances of anti-black racism on the campus.

"While, potentially, work's being done behind the scenes, it's important that — especially during a time like this — it's publicly acknowledged that we're going to do what we can to look into our own colonial and racist past and see what we can do better," said Bowers.

"For myself as a black man ... we're sick and tired of seeing the same public statements that go out. What are they achieving? It would seem like it's just for publicity purposes, whereas we're looking for real, tangible action."

Former student union president Jeremiah Bowers says University of Windsor president Robert Gordon's statement came off as 'hollow' and resembled nothing more than a PR stunt. (Jason Viau/CBC)

About 50 per cent of first-year students at the University of Windsor's Faculty of Law identify as a racial or ethnic background other than Caucasian, according to a 2019 diversity survey by the campus' law school.

CBC News reached out to the University of Windsor for an interview, but received a statement instead.

"We understand the significant concerns that have been expressed by our students, and we are working on a number of initiatives to better deal with anti-Black racism at the University of Windsor," the school's public affairs director John Coleman said.

"Ultimately, the University will be judged on our actions moving forward, which we intend to announce shortly."

                       
CORRECTION
We initially reported that about 50 per cent of all students at the University of Windsor identify as a racial or ethnic background other than Caucasian. In fact, it is 50 per cent of first-year students in the school's Faculty of Law, according to a 2019 diversity survey by the campus' law school. 

Posted: June 4, 2020 | 12:10 p.m. ET

With files from Jason Viau

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