Minutes:Meeting of the President's Advisory Committee for a Racism-Free Campus of November 28, 2019

Posted on Thursday, November 28, 2019

MINUTES OF THE PRESIDENT’S ADVISORY COMMITTEE FOR A RACISM-FREE CAMPUS

 Thursday, November 28, 2019, 2:30 p.m – 4:30 p.m., Social Sciences Building, Room 5028

ATTENDANCE

N. Badiou, D. Bedward, S. Bennett, D. Desta, D. Bedward, M. Cardinal, J. El-Mohtadi, J. Frémont, J. Koulmiye-Boyce, Y. Naqvi (by teleconference), J. Seguya, R. Smith, J. St-Lewis, W. Mason, N. Abu Zahra

ABSENCES

Z. Fellahi, K. Hagerty, S. Hussen, T. Johnson, J. Lavoie, B. Uviluq

RESOURCES

A-L Gagné, M. Gruer, S. Isaacs

DEBRIEF ON NOVEMBER 20 TOWNHALL

The President summarizes the main themes which emerged from the November 20 town hall, including (1) the obstacles to hiring and promotion of black faculty (2) the lack of black professors and the need for resources and training, (3) an existing curricula that is not reflective of black culture and history, (4) the occurrence of micro-aggressions and offences against black students, faculty and staff, including touching one’s hair without warning or consent and insensitive and racist comments aimed at black students by faculty and fellow students, (5) the need for greater recognition of black culture on campus (6) the need for data collection to better understand the issue of racism and its possible remedies, (7) the need for a complaint mechanism for students to report incidents of discrimination and racism without fear of retribution, (8) feeling unsafe and vulnerable on campus, and (9) the lack of recognition of support and resources by the University especially with regards to initiatives led by student associations.

The Chair of the Committee asks the members to provide feedback on the President’s summary. Some of the comments included the need for data collection, training, curricula that accurately reflects black history and culture, the view that black students and staff need to work harder than their counterparts to achieve success, and the lack of awareness of what precisely are the rights of black students and staff on campus. There was also a comment about reconciliation and the space needs of Indigenous students. There were also comments expressed about Protection Services and that concerns raised about Protection Services were not being heard or addressed for the BIPOC community. There was also a comment about the need to increase the diversity in the faculty and staff complement.

Members note the need for openness when it comes to the Committee’s work, to provide for accountability and consultation of the community, and to ensure that concrete actions and measures are undertaken that address the underlying causes of racism. A member also points out that this is an opportunity for the University of Ottawa to lead the way for other universities in Canada facing similar issues. 

It was also noted that racism is a known societal problem that affects our institution and as such, the conversation should be redirected to changes and actions that need to take place in order to prevent further acts of racism and create a safer and more inclusive environment for BIPOC community members.

The Chair asks about what the Advisory Committee would like to prioritize and act upon. A member then notes the need to refer back to the students’ open letter to the President, which identifies areas on which the University should focus, including a review of policies, training, consultation, accountability, transparency and data collection and representativity. The Chair and President highlighted the need to focus on short-term goals in order to demonstrate that actions are being taken, while simultaneously working on medium and long-term goals. In terms of priorities, it was suggested that any recommendations from the first investigation report relating to the June 12, 2019 incident, including ongoing training for Protection Services officers and complaint and enforcement mechanisms, be addressed.

Another short-term goal mentioned was the importance of an institutional recognition of Black History Month and of the Decade for People of African Descent on the Central Administration’s website and through the different faculties.

A member noted the importance of accountability; working on holding people accountable for hate-speech on campus. They also stressed the importance of consultation and of opening the door of the President’s Advisory Committee to the public. They suggested limiting speaking rights, while still allowing people to listen in on the conversation because it is an empowering mechanism that allows the Committee to harness expertise on campus. The member also notes the need to properly allocate resources to achieve forthcoming initiatives, a point which was not included in the open letter. A member cites an example of said allocation of resources, notably the compensation of members of the Faculty of Social Sciences working towards decolonizing the curriculum, which is a pilot project that could serve as a model for other faculties.

The Chair confirms that the second report by the external investigator is forthcoming. The external investigator has requested a week’s extension, and the report is expected to be delivered at the beginning of December 2019.

Members discuss numerous initiatives, including mandatory training on racism for members of the University community, the need to effectively communicate to students and staff that racism has no place on our campus, to raise awareness of the impact and consequences of racism on our community, and to outline the resources at the community’s disposal to combat racism, similarly to what was done to combat sexual violence on campus. It is agreed that content will be drafted that can be included on syllabi across the campus. Steffany Bennett confirms that she will draft the content and follow-up with Committee members following the meeting. Furthermore, she will set-up meetings with students to gain some insights into how the dimensions dashboard could be setup. A follow-up will also be conducted by Joanne St-Lewis, who will share with Committee members three reports that were ordered within her unit following the June 12 carding incident, and who will gather information on the parameters for the implementation of interim measures during ongoing investigations, and on the administration of mandatory training modules for all security staff on campus.

A list of short-term and long-term goals will be developed going forward and will be the focus of upcoming meetings. The student members request that implementation plans, including timelines and resource requirements, be developed for each action.

At the next meeting of the Committee, the Chair will present a final draft of the Committee’s Terms of Reference.

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