Update: December 8, 2021
Over the past year, York University, with the help of community members, has intensified its efforts to address systemic anti-Black racism at the University.
In February 2021, following meetings with more than 200 Black community members, and other stakeholders, the University released two significant documents for further consultation: Addressing Anti-Black Racism: A Framework on Black Inclusion, and the accompanying Draft Action Plan on Black Inclusion. A virtual town hall was held in March 2021 to seek input from faculty, staff and students, followed by a subsequent round of consultations resulting in broad feedback and suggestions from community members across the University. An important theme throughout the consultations was the need for action even while recognizing that input would be ongoing and continue to shape annual priorities.
We are therefore pleased to be announcing today the launch of York’s first Action Plan on Black Inclusion: A Living Document for Action. The Framework and Action Plan are both available on the Addressing Anti-Black Racism at York website.
The Plan outlines a series of strong and accountable commitments informed by the input received, marking an important step that York is making to combat anti-Black racism, and provide equitable access to learning, teaching, research and professional environments. Commitments in the Action Plan include hiring a minimum of 12 new Black faculty members by 2023; creating a new physical space to facilitate meetings among Black faculty, staff and students; increasing funding for scholarships, bursaries and other forms of financial aid in support of Black students; developing Black scholarship incentive grants to support research grant applications; and establishing a new, culturally safe tool for complaints about racial discrimination and harassment, available in English and French.
This work is already well underway, and we are pleased to report on some of the important steps that have already been taken at an institutional level as well as in local units:
- Twelve new Black faculty members have been welcomed to the University, with one additional Black faculty member confirmed for 2022.
- A new Provost’s Post-Doctoral Fellowship program was launched specifically for Black and Indigenous applicants, with this year’s four recipients announced in August 2021.
- A mentorship program for Black and women students was launched by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.
- $150,000 has been committed to support Black scholars in 2021–22, and consultation has begun on the formation of a funding program for Black scholars, with the goal to launch by early 2022. As part of a $2.25 million commitment over the next three years to advance equity, diversity and inclusion through community engagement and research activities, $50,000 per year has been committed to Black community engagement projects and $250,000 per year to Black research and knowledge mobilization projects, beginning in 2022.
- $100,000 has been committed to support the activities of York’s Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) and the Harriet Tubman Institute ($50,000 per research unit).
- The Department of Community Safety has taken steps to undertake a review of services and to explore alternative community safety models.
- The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion continues to offer its Anti-Racism Training to community members, and to record numbers of participants.
- The Black Excellence at York University recruitment and student support hub was launched to support Black student achievement.
- The Gertrude Mianda Prize for Excellence in Essay Writing was launched by the Glendon Race Equity Caucus.
- New Human Rights Policy and Procedures were approved by the Board of Governors in June 2021.
We have committed to the Action Plan on Black Inclusion being a living document, open to review, and evolving over time. This approach allows us to move forward with the urgent action that is needed while at the same time appreciating that changes may be required as circumstances change. We will also be reporting back to the community on our progress in implementing the Action Plan on an annual basis. We anticipate that the first progress report will be released in February 2022.
We are also pleased to share that York University signed on to endorse the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education on November 18, 2021. Endorsement of this Charter is continued affirmation of York’s commitment to addressing the systemic anti-Black racism that pervades academia, and to fostering pan-Canadian communities of learning that build inclusive, substantive equality.
Bringing about systemic change is everyone’s responsibility. We call on all members of the York community to read the Framework on Black Inclusion and Action Plan, as well as the Scarborough Charter. We also encourage community members to identify actions in their individual, divisional and unit work to address anti-Black racism and white supremacy.
We recognize that this message or topic may have a personal impact for some. Should you feel that you might benefit from support, there are a variety of resources available to the York community listed on the Mental Health and Wellness site.
President and Vice-Chancellor
Vice-President Equity, People and Culture
UPDATE: continuing to address oppression and confront anti-Black racism in the Division
I am writing to update you on the work we have done in the Division as we continue to address oppression and confront anti-Black racism. I want to share some of the advancements we have made so far. I know that much remains to be done.
At an institutional level, development of an Anti-Black Racism Framework has begun that will provide the University with a detailed roadmap of actionable steps to create change. The Framework will be available in the New Year.
As a Division, we are in the process of hiring external expertise to do an audit and develop recommendations in priority order to help us move forward on revising our policies, practices, and services using an equity, diversity and inclusion lens. We will also call on staff across our Division interested in helping us develop a Divisional implementation plan to support the University’s Framework.
We know that much begins with our own education about existing forms of oppression and bias, to develop a better understanding of the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous and racialized communities.
I want to share with you examples of training, consultations, communications, programs and activities that have taken place over the past six months.
- In June 2020, we hosted a Virtual Coffee Chat with Sheila Cote-Meek, Vice-President Equity, People & Culture to engage in conversations with students and staff who wished to share the impact of anti-Black racism from personal experience as well as barriers that are present across societal structures and systems including here at York. The honest dialogue from these conversations has informed the development of the Anti-Black Racism Framework.
- Units across our Division have also taken leadership in many ways:
- Training sessions during our Division of Students Professional Development Week (i.e. Leadership Roles as a Person of Colour and Race & Privilege: An Honest, Overdue Conversation with Ourselves);
- Since June, Student Community & Leadership Development and the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion have hosted 10 Race & Privilege: Overdue Conversation sessions. Across these 10 sessions, 186 participants were students, 244 participants were staff, and three were faculty members, for a total of 433 participants;
- Anti-Oppressive Communication Skills training;
- Unit specific book clubs centred around anti-Black racism;
- The senior leadership team embarked on multi-session unconscious bias training sessions led by the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion. We know that to be leaders of this Division, we must understand how racism and oppression imposes limitations on people and impacts their lives.
- From the Division of Students Professional Development Week, a BIPOC affinity group emerged to create space for connections and conversations. More details to come.
- We are working with the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion on a third-party external review of the culture within Athletics & Recreation to prioritize the education, training and development of student-athletes, coaches and staff focused on diversity inclusion and equity.
- Our units are taking proactive action to identify policies and practices for review using an EDI lens.
We also continue to support our under-represented students with initiatives and programs. Here is a sample of what’s been underway:
- A working group made up of students, staff and faculty has been created to deliver a Student Census so that we can identify under-represented, under-served groups or those who may face discrimination, a lack of access, or exclusion. The survey will be distributed to all students in Fall 2021, and annually thereafter, and will inform our policies, practices, programs and services from an access and inclusion perspective.
- In collaboration with the Division of Advancement, programs are being developed that will increase financial support for Black students.
- An Anti-Racist Resource Share was developed by our Student Community & Leadership Development team.
- Student Counselling, Health & Well-being developed Support Groups for Racialized Students.
Our work is only just beginning and no doubt not moving at the pace that some wish or expect. We know that the experiences of our Black students and staff have been negatively impacted by their interactions with the policies and practices across society, and at York. We know we must dismantle these policies and practices and re-imagine our services, all the while focused on the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
If you would like to continue your own individual journey, workshops, resources and training are offered through the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion.
If you need support, I invite you to access the resources available below:
- Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion
- Employee & Family Assistance Program (support available 24/7/365)
- Mental Health & Wellbeing Resources (including the YU Psychology Clinic, Office of Student Community Relations, The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education and more)
We must commit to the difficult work ahead as sustainable change takes effort and dedication. We will move forward in a thoughtful, sustainable manner and will keep you informed at each step.
As a Division, we will embody the change we want to see in the world.
Recently you received the communication from President Lenton expressing that we stand with Black community members in the ongoing fight to end racism and hate.
I, as you, have followed the news surrounding the tragic death of innocent people and the deeply troubling acts of anti-Black racism in the United States, Canada and around the world.
These are difficult times, especially for community members who experience exclusion, oppression or micro-aggressions on a regular basis and we recognize that the events of recent weeks have imposed an enormous burden of pain, fear and anger, in addition to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19.
We all struggle right now to understand what is helpful and what adds further to the pain. What we do know is that there is much work to be done and while we condemn racism and discrimination in all its forms and reaffirm our deep commitment to diversity, inclusion and human rights this alone is not enough.
As the Vice-Provost Students, I commit to you to listen closely before we act. We cannot presume to know where we need to strengthen our initiatives and deepen our efforts until we have a better understanding of the impact of exclusion. Our Division will provide opportunities to educate ourselves, taking advantage of learning resources available through the University and community professionals which we will make available to all our staff.
We’ve made a start. Within the Division, Student Community & Leadership Development has shared anti-racism resources for students and our Student-Athletes & Varsity Sport Council released a message to #SpeakoutagainstRacism.
We encourage staff members in the Division to enrol in the Summer 202 REDI Professional Development Series, including Acknowledging and Addressing Racism, and making use of CHREI’s online resources.
We will listen, we will learn, and we will act. This will take time. The changes necessary to create equitable, inclusive, socially responsible and safer learning and working spaces will take time. Over the summer we will provide safe spaces for people to share concerns and recommendations.
If you are struggling through these recent events, please do not hesitate to reach out. I invite you to access the resources available below.
- Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion
- Employee & Family Assistance Program (support available 24/7/365)
- Mental Health @ Wellbeing Resources (including the YU Psychology Clinic, Office of Student Community Relations, The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education and more)