MINUTES OF THE PRESIDENT’S ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR A RACISM-FREE CAMPUS
Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 2:00 p.m – 4:00 p.m., Tabaret Hall, Room 210
N. Badiou, S. Bennett, D. Desta, J. El-Mohtadi, Z. Fellahi, J. Frémont, S. Hussen, T. Johnson, J. Lavoie, W. Mason, N. Abu Zahra
D. Bedward, J. Koulmiye-Boyce, Y. Naqvi, J. Seguya, R. Smith, J. St-Lewis, B. Uviluq
A-L Gagné, M. Gruer, S. Isaacs
Anne-Marie Roy, Awad Ibrahim
The President and Vice-Chancellor provides introductory remarks and invites members to introduce themselves. The President then introduces the new Committee Chair, Mr. Noël Badiou, and confirms that he will no longer chair these meetings, so that he may serve as a full member of the Committee.
Members note the attendance of Anne-Marie Roy, Communications and Research Officer at the Association of Professors of the University, who is accompanying the member appointed by the Black, Indigenous and People of colour Caucus of the APUO and Awad Ibrahim, another member of the Black, Indigenous and People of colour Caucus.
REVIEW OF THE COMMITTEE’S MANDATE AND MEMBERSHIP
The Committee members begin their discussion on the Committee’s terms of reference, and members are invited to share their comments and suggestions regarding its content.
Mandate and Function of the Committee
In the course of the discussion on the Committee’s role and mandate, members voice a concern on the need to understand the nature not only of discrimination, but of racism in all its form, and our need to tackle intersectional issues, without it getting watered down to a single issue.
In order to better fulfill its mandate, the student representatives are of the view that the Committee should shift its focus from anti-discrimination to anti-racism.
It is further suggested to change the title to ‘Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Racism’. A member weighs in to suggest that using wording that denotes a negative connotation, such as ‘anti’ , may turn people off from engaging or participating in the Committee’s work. It is suggested to use a more positive terminology, such as the ‘Presidential Advisory Committee for an inclusive campus’ or ‘Presidential Advisory Committee for a racism-free campus’ The members retain the latter title. The title, as well as the section on the Committee’s function and mandate, will be modified accordingly to reflect this change.
The Chair notes the importance of having a short-term and long-term vision for the Committee and its mandate. While the current Committee may assign a high priority to tackling the issue of anti-black racism, it does not preclude the possibility of delving deeper into other subjects as part of the Committee’s overall mandate.
The discussion then turns to the mechanism for tackling separate issues of racism and discrimination, and if one singular Committee can take on this task, or if various sub-committees are required to examine these issues on an ad hoc basis. The students maintain that at this time, the focus on anti-racism is ideal, but that later on separate committees could be formed to tackle issues relating to other marginalized groups.
The representative of the BIPOC caucus notes that should the Committee’s mandate be expanded, she may resign from the Committee should the Committee decide to focus on areas of discrimination that she can’t speak to.
A more thorough discussion is had on the exact function and mandate of the Committee, and it is proposed that the Committee include in its mandate an education and awareness component, and that the Committee could set aside one to two meetings a year to analyze the types of complaints received, in order to better understand the nature of incidents and issues which arise on campus, and how to address these issues. The Chair confirms that statistics may be provided for the purposes of analyzing the types of incidents, and its possible remedies, and the Human Rights Office’s database will allow that kind of collection of data, which may be presented to the Committee on a biannual basis. The Chair does caution that the Committee’s mandate will not be one where members discuss ongoing investigations, in keeping with University policies and procedures.
It is further noted that regular consultations with the community be undertaken as part of the Committee’s work and that an additional bullet should be added to the function and mandate section of the Committee’s terms of reference regarding consultation of the community. In response to a comment regarding setting a specific number of townhalls per year in the Committee’s terms of reference, it is mentionned that leaving it open would be preferable to ensure the possibility of hosting the optimal number of townhalls on an annual basis. The members reiterate the need to plan and publicize the events well in advance to allow for maximum participation, and in order to allow key groups and individuals the possibility of attending.
It is noted that for this reason, multiple events will be planned, and that alternative forms of participation will be available for those who cannot attend in person.
The members then discuss the Committee membership.
It is noted that the objective, when establishing the membership, is to allow all groups to have a voice, and to be able to actively contribute to the Committee’s work. The Chair invites members to share their comments regarding membership.
The members reaffirm the need to include representatives from the following key groups, and to list the number of representatives for each group in the section on membership:
● Representatives of The Black Student Leaders’ Association (2 seats)
● Representative of the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (2 seats)
● Representative of the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour Caucus of the Association of the Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO)) (1 seat)
● Representative of a Recognized Student Government (1 seat)
● Representative of The Graduate Studies Association of the University of Ottawa (1 seat)
● Two students (Jamal Koulmiye Boyce and Wiliston Mason)
The membership should be listed according to the group/union/association, to allow for representatives from these groups to serve on the Committee, rather than designating specific individuals whose terms are finite. A mechanism to ensure continuity from one member to the next should also be considered. The Chair notes that he and his team will be able to brief incoming members on the Committee’s work and its progress prior to the start of the member’s mandate, to ensure that the new member has all of the information required to assume their duties.
It is further noted that ideally 80 % of the members who constitute the Committee should belong to one of the following groups: Black, Indigenous and People of colour, to ensure that the contributions to the Committee are based on lived experience and/or parallel knowledge of racism on our campus.
A member raises a question on whether the Committee is a student-led initiative, and whether participation by a student belonging to an Indigenous organization, could be considered. A follow-up will be conducted to confirm interest by Indigenous student organizations to serve on the Committee.
It is noted that racism not only affects the student population, but also staff, including the teaching staff, and that the concerns raised by faculty should be taken into account. It is further noted that among those who were asked to serve on the Committee as part of the BIPOC caucus, several were non-tenured professors, who opted not to serve due to their lack of tenure.
Further clarification is required on the representation of the APUO on the Committee, and the consideration of measures to alleviate discrimination of its members and of contractual professors. It is noted that membership is limited to the groups/unions/associations identified above, and the Committee must be cognizant of limiting the number of members, so as to allow the Committee to effectively deliberate and fully realize its mandate.
It is further noted that subcommittees will be formed or already exist to deal with matters relating to discrimination which affect APUO members, and that the work of those subcommittees will feed into a larger committee.
Meeting frequency and Format:
A member suggests that the meeting schedule be modified to fit the academic year, and to take into account key dates and events, such as reading week, exams and convocation.
It is also suggested that meetings be led in an open and public format, as part of the need for education and awareness, and to further ensure full transparency.
Some members contend, however, that given the nature of the Committee’s work, which involves thorough discussion and debate, as well as working sessions, and to ensure that members feel fully comfortable when sharing their thoughts and opinions, a balance must be struck between openness, transparency and the need for the Committee to deliberate on key issues and next steps. Members agree that deliberative sessions are required for the committee, but that a public component will also be required, in the form of regular updates to the University community, through various types of media, and consultations and interactions with members of the community, through townhalls and via other formats.
It is proposed that a website should house all relevant information on the Committee. It is noted that there is currently a page dedicated to the University’s measures to combat racism, and to the Committee and its mandate, on the Office of the President’s Website, and that regular updates will continue to be posted online.
A suggestion is made that members be granted a fixed set of days to review the contents of the meeting minutes, and to make suggestions for modifications to its content, before it is formally approved and posted online.
It is confirmed that we will solicit members’ comments and approval for all of the Advisory Committee’s minutes.
Lastly, it is suggested that the full membership list be posted online, so that members of the community are aware of the Committee’s membership, and that a point of contact is designated and a generic email address created for those who wish to get in touch with the members.
NOVEMBER 20TH TOWN HALL
The Executive Director, Communications Directorate, presents the details of the upcoming town hall and solicits members’ comments.
A concern is raised about the lack of time provided for student groups to share and promote the town hall with their networks, from the day of the Committee meeting to the town hall itself. While the initial discussion about the organization of the town hall took place during the meeting with the students in October, in answer to the concern about timing, it is noted that the details and roll-out are only presented during this first meeting of the Committee to ensure that Committee members are aware of the plan and are in general agreement on the approach and the details. Although numerous resources will be used to publicize the event following the agreement of the Committee, it remains that eight days is not sufficient notice for many students who wish to attend. It is understood that this town hall was scheduled very quickly for reasons of wanting it to take place before the end of the year and also, not to be held during exam time. It is also noted that this town hall is the first in a series of initiatives where members of the community will have the opportunity to participate and engage. The concern highlights the need for greater consultation with students groups to ensure maximum notice and participation on these important issues.
Members of the Committee will be invited to attend the session, and it is suggested that the event be co-moderated by the Associate Vice-President, Students Affairs, and by a student belonging to the Committee. The Committee’s student representatives will provide the Committee with the co-moderator’s name following the meeting. A member brings up a concern about the power dynamics present with having a white man as the representative from the University to moderate a town hall on anti-black racism. Members of the Committee acknowledge that it would be better for a Black, Indigenous or Person of Colour to moderate for the employee/faculty side after which the Committee discusses who that person could be. A member notes that the fact that the University is struggling to find a person of colour to moderate a town hall on anti-black racism shows the need for greater representation within the University’s administration and faculty.
The town hall will be live-streamed via the University’s Youtube channel, and participants will be able to send their comments throughout the town hall, or to share their comments in person at the event. A form will be included in the meeting invitation for those who wish to submit information on their own experience with racism on campus, in strictest confidence and anonymously.
Members ask additional questions on how the event will unfold, precisely in terms of the time allotted to each component of the town hall and how messages posted online will be shared throughout the town hall. It is noted that the majority of the time will be dedicated to hearing participants’ stories and comments, and that the comments received online will be shared with the participant, throughout the event.
It is confirmed that a set of minutes will be prepared following the town hall, and that the Committee will convene to review the information amassed during the town hall, so that the Committee may determine next steps.
The possibility of adding a fourth objective (solicit ideas on next steps) for the event is also discussed. Many victims of racism or discrimination not only want to share their experience, but also want to know that something good will come out of that re-lived experience, that the incident they faced will not reoccur, and that actions will be taken to collectively remedy the conditions that lead to racist acts.
At the end of the meeting, the President confirms that a follow-up will be conducted to identify a date shortly after the town hall for the members to convene and discuss the outcomes of the town hall.