Minutes:Meeting of the President's Advisory Committee for a Racism-Free Campus of January 27, 2020

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2020

MINUTES OF THE PRESIDENT’S ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR A ANTI-RACIST AND INCLUSIVE CAMPUS

 Monday, January 27, 2020, 1:00 p.m – 3:00 p.m., Tabaret Hall, Room 210

ATTENDANCE

N. Badiou, K. Barkat, D. Bedward, S. Bennett, D. Desta, J. El-Mohtadi, T. Francis, J. Frémont, S. Hussen, J. Koulmiye-Boyce (by teleconference), J. Lavoie, Y. Naqvi (by teleconference), J. Seguya, R. Smith (by teleconference), N. Abu Zahra

ABSENCES

M. Cardinal, Z. Fellahi, K. Hagerty, T. Johnson, W. Mason, J. St-Lewis

RESOURCES

A-L Gagné, M. Gruer, S. Isaacs

Le président du Comté souhaite la bienvenue aux deux nouvelles membres du Comité, Toni Francis, directrice des relations de travail des Ressources humaines et Kafia Barkat, Agente de projets et d’administration du Cabinet du vice-recteur associé à la vie étudiante. Le recteur invite chaque membre à se présenter par la suite.

UPDATE : SECOND PART OF THE REPORT BY THE EXTERNAL INVESTIGATOR

The Committe Chair provides an update regarding the submission of the second report by the external investigator. He confirms that it is delayed and we are expecting it this week. Once we received, it will be sent for translation and made public. The Committee will have the opportunity to discuss the report at its next regularly scheduled meeting.

REVIEW OF THE COMMITTEE’S MANDATE

The Chair had circulated an updated draft terms of reference in advance of the meeting that had included the feedback and comments received from the last Committee meeting in November, including the mandate, function, membership and meeting format. The next meeting will be in an open setting, so as to allow participation from members of the University community. He also confirms that the next Committee meeting will take place in room 083 of Tabaret Hall.

A member raises a question on the guidelines regarding the nomination of members for the Committee, and whether these also require that membership be comprised of 75 % BIPOC representation. The Chair confirms that the same standards in terms of representation will be applied to the appointment of new members.

A suggestion is raised regarding the Committee’s title, which was also raised during the first town hall in November 2019. As the campus will never be fully racism-free, and so as to not deny the racism that currently exists and will exist in the future, some members suggest that we revert back to including ‘anti-racism’ in the title.

A member suggests including the word ‘inclusive’ in the title as follows: President’s Advisory Committee for an anti-racist and inclusive campus.

A member then raises questions on the decision-making process and mechanism within the terms of reference. As the Committee is an advisory one, and has the mandate to provide advice and recommendations to the President, it is noted that decisions will be made by reaching consensus through deliberations. The Chair further explains that the consensus reached will be reflected in the minutes, and in the list of forthcoming strategies and goals, which will be made public and posted online. The President emphasizes that he is ultimately accountable for decisions made and measures to be implemented to address systemic racism, and that he will be required to justify any actions or decisions taken to the community, the Board of Governors and other governing bodies.

The President reiterates that the objective of the Committee is to provide a forum for representatives of BIPOC groups/associations and equity- and diversity-seeking individuals, and that the Committee’s work is in of itself a confidence-building exercise. If trust and confidence can’t be built, it will undermine the progress we seek to achieve collectively. He invites the members to engage in dialogue if they feel something is not optimal, but to remain engaged nonetheless.

It is iterated that if the Advisory Committee stands behind its recommendations as a whole, that will give them more weight, and the Board is meant to act as a check and balance to the President, should he opt to make decisions that depart from the Advisory Committee’s recommendations.

A member raises a question about the appointment process. The Chair confirms that this is a standard way in which appointments are made within advisory committees at other universities. A member volunteered to conduct additional research on the appointment process of advisory committees at other universities, such as Queen’s, Ryerson and Lakehead, and will report back to the Committee.

A member states that the Committee’s mandate and function are clear, but suggests adding guiding principles to the terms of reference to further provide clarification on the Committee’s role and scope.

DISCUSSION ON THE JANUARY 23 TOWN HALL SESSION  

The Chair confirms that the town hall which took place on January 23, was to allow members of the GSAED who were unable to participate in the first town hall to have the opportunity to voice their concerns, experiences and feelings regarding racism on campus. The event solicited a lot of interest, and a good participation rate.

It is noted that future town halls should no longer focus on members of the community sharing their experiences,  but should be repurposed to allow members of the community to comment and critique the strategies and goals established by the Committee. The Chair maintains that the next town hall will be repurposed, and may include a panel discussion with subject-matter experts to share best practices to consider going forward.

The Chair confirms that a document containing the key themes for the two previous town halls will be circulated to Committee members. The discussion then turns to the list of strategies and goals, which was submitted to Committee members prior to the meeting.

DISCUSSION ON THE LIST OF THE PRIORITIES AND THE SUGGESTED TIMELINE

The President reminds members that the strategies and goals list will be evergreen, subject to change based on what we hear during the various consultation activities planned. He also reminds members that the Committee’s role will be to recommend reforms, but that those, such as a reform in hiring practices, will have to be managed by the relevant departments/services/faculties, in partnership with concerned groups, unions and associations. The Chair invited members’ feedback regarding the strategies and goals, whether these concord with what has been raised during the town halls, and whether these are categorized in appropriate categories. He notes that many of these goals have short timelines, and that these can be addressed if the appropriate resources and efforts are allocated. He further notes that Black History Month is a priority, and inquires whether partnerships can be established to recognize the month and its activities, and if we can find a more concerted way to advertise what is being done.

A student confirms that various activities are planned for Black History Month, and the student union is asking for financial support for these initiatives, in the amount of 15,000 $. A full list of priorities will be published on February 5th in the student paper The Gee. It noted that to successfully plan activities surrounding Black History Month, additional permanent staff, that is representative of our diverse society, is required.

The members discuss the strategies and goals list in further detail. It is noted that the first step in implementing measures to address racism is to identify precisely what the University is doing through environmental scans.  

A member states that data collection is not always used positively within the black community, but that data on hiring practices, rates of stop and search and cases in which individuals have found resolutions at the Human Rights Office could prove useful. Another member cautions against getting into a vicious cycle of data collection, whereby we continuously identify a need for collecting more information rather than taking action.

It is suggested that the centralization of the complaint mechanism be integrated in the list of priorities. The Chair notes that this is being carefully considered. The centralized complaint mechanism will need to ensure that the complaints are forwarded to the appropriate departments for treatment, in a way that will safeguard privacy and confidentiality as each service has its own privacy and confidentiality responsibilities, much care has to be exercised to respect and uphold these obligations.  

In order to establish recommendations which will have a lasting and meaningful effect, it is noted that we should consult other EDI report authors, including the Canadian Federation of Students, and the Ryerson Task Force on Anti-Racism.

A concern is raised about the ways in which micro-aggressions can be tackled. While there is a goal of addressing micro-aggressions in the strategies and goals list, there are no concrete measures or actions suggested to counter these, adding that raising awareness of a zero-tolerance policy via course syllabi or addressing the environment in the classroom will not solve the problem, or prevent people from engaging in micro-aggressions.

Another member comments that measures to address concerns of micro-aggressions or other forms of racism should be more restorative than punitive.The process to address the issue should seek to understand what transpired, to clarify that with both parties, and to make the accuser and accused feel more comfortable. 

A question is raised on whether oversight will be provided for the measures included in the strategies and goals list. It is stated that the President, Chair and Committee are mandated to ensure oversight. A working document will be created to allow members to track activities and progress for each initiative undertaken.

A major component of the ongoing initiatives and goals will be regular training of members of the University community. It is noted that training should be tailored to targeted groups, and be adapted and modified as time goes to ensure its applicability and efficacy.

A member notes that the wording for the section containing courses should be reformulated as the courses should be of interest to the entire University community. The members discuss the format of the strategies and goals document, and whether these should be tied to designated pillars. A member suggests using the pillars of awareness, support and action, and another member offers to reformat the list to reflect the same.

It is reiterated that the short-term and medium-term objectives be shared prior to the March town hall to allow people to come prepared and provide commentary regarding its content. It is noted that the room should accommodate as many people as possible, and that SLIDO could be used as an interactive tool to allow participants to do more than ask questions during the town hall. It is further iterated that more publicity and greater advance notice should be given to allow participants to take part in the event.

Lastly, it is suggested that a list of action items/follow-up activities be created to allow members to track activities and progress between meetings. A list will be drafted and integrated in upcoming agenda. The current action items to include on the list are (1) ensuring that updates are made to the terms of reference, including the addition of text to clarify guiding principles and decision-making processes (2) the preparation of benchmarking document on appointment processes for advisory committees in other universities, (3) developing text for inclusion on course syllabi, (4) the release and review of the phase II report, and (5) providing feedback regarding the Dimensions projects and the self-ID dashboard.

 

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