University of Windsor releases action plan for tackling anti-Black racism on campus
Former UWSA president optimistic, but law student says multiple key points were missed
Following a previous apology over its official statement on the death of George Floyd which was heavily criticized by multiple student groups, the University of Windsor has outlined an action plan for tackling anti-Black racism on campus.
The four-point plan, which was met with optimism by some and skepticism by others, outlines actionable items that weren't in the initial statement.
That first statement, issued by the university June 1, was called "disturbing" and "disappointing" by more than 40 student groups after it failed to directly address anti-Black racism and denounce the four officers involved in George Floyd's death.
On Wednesday, university president Robert Gordon used the start of a virtual town hall, focused on how the university would forward in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to apologize for the prior statement.
He noted that his June 1 statement "didn't go far enough and failed to fully recognize the significance of the moment and explicitly condemn anti-Black racism."
The university announced four action items Thursday that it would put in place:
- establishing Anti-Black racism task force with representation from students and staff, in place by the fall semester.
- establishing a training and education framework to raise awareness about anti-Black racism.
- look into a partnership with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to implement, "among other things," a racial demographic data collection framework.
- plans to work with the Office of Human Rights, Equity & Accessibility and other departments at the school to commission an external review of the university's "processes, policies and programs."
"The University is committed to providing resources for each of these initiatives and will also establish an assessment and reporting process to effectively monitor and communicate progress moving forward," the university said in its revised statement Thursday.
"We are now ready to make much-needed change as it relates to anti-Back racism at the University of Windsor. We will need everyone's help. And together, we will make a difference."
Jeremiah Bowers, former student body president at the University of Windsor and current chairperson for the National Black Student Caucus, is optimistic about the action plan, calling it a step in the right direction toward meaningful progress.
"They're a result of, I think, years of students demanding change," he said. "Obviously, with momentum being as it is right now, it is the perfect time to act."
He added that universities which have created task forces in the past tend to collect a lot of data, but little is done with it in terms of action that students can see.
"We have to be careful that we're not falling into the same trap of just gathering information with no calls to action."
Josh Lamers, a first-year law student at the University of Windsor, looks at the school's action plan in a more negative light and points to a number of missing key points.
"Did anyone see anything in terms of hiring? I saw no commitment to Black faculty being hired in tenureship positions," he said, adding the action plan does not mention reallocating funds to "ensure anything related to anti-Black racism."
"I saw no commitment to space for Black students. I saw no commitment to an anti-Black racism institute in which [a] Black scholarship out of Windsor university can come out of."
For Lamers, the university's action plan is full of nothing more than references to committees. reports and reviews." He's calling for more Black students to be hired in teaching assistant and research assistant positions and for the university to end its partnership with police.
Both Bowers and Lamers added that the university's proposed task forces should be led by Black students, faculty and staff to ensure proper representation.
With files from Tahmina Aziz