Letter sent to President Feridun Hamdullahpur & Provost James Rush
Titled: “Ending Anti-Black Racism at the University of Waterloo”
2 July 2020Black Faculty Collective
Ending Anti-Black Racism at the University of Waterloo
Thank you for agreeing to meet with us as a collective of Black faculty and administrators at the University of Waterloo (UW) and its partner campuses. We take your acceptance of this meeting as a hopeful sign of a new beginning where you will begin to consult, collaborate, and partner with us in the fight to end anti-Black racism. We have been doing this work within and outside of UW. Some of us are internationally respected anti-racist consultants to universities and organizations but our work has never been used, recognized or accepted by UW’s central administration. We take this meeting today as a signal from UW the times have changed.
We wish to make clear from the outset that we have witnessed and been personally and professionally subject to anti-Black racism at UW. In one way or another we have brought our experiences and those of others to UW’s attention over the years. Unfortunately, we cannot say with any degree of certainty that you have either heard our complaints, respected their truth, or made any notable intervention to alleviate the anti-Black racisms we experience. Now, through the Associate Vice President of Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion, you have asked a few of us, and by extension all of us, to help you on a task force designed to do some of things we have begged you to do for years. This irony is not lost on us. And we hope that it is now obvious to you. We simply cannot work with you if these circumstances continue.
Therefore, we are offering you an opportunity to demonstrate, in specific and tangible ways, that you will collaborate, consult, and partner with us in an effort to both change our campus culture, as it pertains to anti-Black racism, and innovate in interracial relations at UW. We say change because, as we mention above, we are still–yes, to this very day–subject to systemic and institutional anti-Blackness. Those interracial relations need immediate repair. Reconstruction must take place to alleviate systemic and institutional anti-Blackness before any innovation can begin. If not, you will be asking us to reinvent the wheel, at the same time that we suffer under oppression and suppression. That is futile and painful. We simply cannot do that.
For example, when the University issued its June 6 statement banning the N-Word on campus, it did not consult with us and it deleted it from the News Archive on UW’s website. This is remarkable because you are well aware that some of us are world-class leaders in interracial communication on this very topic. Furthermore, we penned a letter to you asking for consultation. But you did not act. What’s more, coming quickly after that, you decided to put together a task force that would in part address anti-Blackness on campus. Again, we were stunned that no consultation took place to query our individual and collective expertise on this very topic. We were not invited to speak on whether the approach you chose is appropriate or whether your vision of such a committee is viable under the circumstances. Nor did you seem to consider how your approach and process are experienced as further actions mired in anti-Blackness. We wish to bring to your attention that we are indeed suffering from your process, and we are disappointed in your lack of transparency.
The one positive outcome from this process, however, is that it has brought UW’s infinitesimally and disproportionately small number of Black faculty together in solidarity. We are willing to look beyond your recent actions in order to assist you in doing right by ourselves, our students and our community. We invite you to build trust with us. In the spirit of collaboration, we offer below some ‘trust requests’ to you. As an aside, we use the term ‘trust requests’ to mark an innovative language difference from the linguistic choice of our Black constituencies on University campuses in the USA (see http://www.blackliberationcollective.org/our-demands).
Partners do not demand actions from each other. They build trust through consultation, collaboration, and real partnership. Demands arise when the consultation, collaboration, and partnership break down. To be clear, our counterparts in the USA have historically tried to consult, collaborate, and partner with university administrations across their country. However, over many years, those administrations have continued to act in bad faith, supporting white supremacy under multiple guises of diversity and inclusion. Trust between those administrations and our Black counterparts have eroded, many beyond repair. So Black people are rightfully making demands. It is a misconception that racisms of this magnitude do not exist in Canada and UW. In fact, our country, and sadly, UW, supports many forms of covert, rather than overt racisms.
This is an opportunity for you to build up trust with us; to renovate what’s in disrepair, and to join us in our efforts to innovate. Together we can lead by example in North America, showing what it would look like for a high ranking, predominantly white, academic institution to become a university that Black students from across the globe are eager to attend–eager not only because it leads in technological innovation, but also leads in social innovation through interracial relations and academic opportunities designed to promote real and lasting interventions into hundreds of years of pure ugliness.
In light of the foregoing, we invite you to consider our trust requests, which we plan to discuss with you at our meeting on 2 July 2020. We have four goals for our meeting:
- To establish internal positions that will be a part of the Presidential task force or special committee;
- To create the institutional framework for the special presidential committee;
- To establish lines of clear communication with Central Administration;
- To discuss and plan for specific, measurable and transparent forms of renovation and innovation.
Committee/Task Force Composition
We urge you to reconsider your plans to have a five co-chairs model. Instead, we have conferred among ourselves and offer the following two co-chairs model:
The task force will have a seven year term, with the responsibility, inter alia, to partner with the UW on quarterly measurable actions.
We offer Kathy Hogarth as Chair of the Committee. As Chair, we propose that she will occupy an equal role, that serves in parallel to that of the AVP HREI. The HREI office, as it is currently configured, lacks recognizable experience of any meaningful kind in dealing with the kinds of anti-Black racism on academic campuses that have damaged UW’s internal culture and external reputation. Dr. Hogarth does. We recommend that Hogarth become the Associate Vice President of Anti-racist Equity and Inclusion, with a focus on addressing anti-Black racism. In this capacity, she will chair your committee. We find it remarkably insulting that there is only one Black woman in any senior administrative role on UW’s campus. We urge you to implement this renovation immediately. Many other institutions are ahead of us in this regard, for example, earlier this year, the University of Calgary appointed Dr. Malinda Smith as Vice-Provost of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
We offer Jessica Thompson as the co-chair of the committee. We believe that Prof. Thompson’s administrative insights and experience gained from her work outside academia, her series of leadership appointments at the Stratford School, and her status as a Black woman well suits her to this position. We recommend that the co-chair of this committee be appointed as the liaison between the committee and the faculties on their anti-racist efforts. Prof. Thompson is on sabbatical and in the interim we recommend that Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young, an anti-racist consultant and expert in North America, take on this role until her return.
We offer Kofi Campbell as a member of the committee and as the Special Advisor to the President on anti-Black racism. Dr. Campbell, as you know, is a capable administrator with experience effecting change. We believe he will be indispensable to the President in these efforts.
We offer Christopher Taylor as a member of the committee, and as the anti-Black Racism Advisor, with an expanded role, authority and capacity, including an appointed seat for the role at Senate. Dr. Taylor is an anti-racist expert in Canada, and has done remarkable work at UW in short order and with aplomb, especially considering that he occupies the precarious position of a definite term lecturer. We strongly recommend that Dr. Taylor is given tenure as an associate professor immediately. This recommendation is consistent with UW Policy 76 5(D). Under Policy 76, Dr. Taylor’s curriculum vitae is “exceptional.” In fact, his credentials are not only in all ways comparable to others at the same level, but exceeds other faculty members at this level. His effective anti-racist work on campus is undeniable. He needs and deserves the protection that comes along with tenure and promotion. Additionally, UW can not lose and can only gain by adding a well-respected scholar and activist of his caliber to its ranks of tenured Black faculty.
The above does not have to constitute the only members of the committee, but we believe they must be members of the committee. We offer this model because it reaches into the very structures of our institution. And only a model like this can really do any substantial and real work intervening into a recalcitrant legacy of white supremacy and the stubborn presence of institutional racism. We simply cannot work within the model you have proposed.
Before we can innovate together, we request that you renovate, preparing a path for us to build in solidarity with you into the foreseeable future.
- We request that you immediately require all administrative offices on campus to be diverse. To be straightforward, there should be no Dean’s Office or any other office that is run by or steered by all white people.
- We request that you commit to increasing the Black faculty yearly for the next 2 years by 100% each year. Sadly that would mean only 3 hires next year. But would mean 6 hires the following year.
- We request that you commit funds and resources to the establishment of a Black Studies Program and a Black Cultural Center. We list the Black Studies program under renovation because Waterloo should already have had a Black Studies Department. It is one of the basic demands arising out of the protests in the 1950’s and 60’s in the USA (as well as in Canada, albeit on a smaller scale). The founders of UW evidently did not pay attention to Canada’s sister to the South or to Black Canadians when establishing the UW. We can correct that now. We can innovate by centering the program on Black entrepreneurship, Black anti-racist consulting and communication, and innovations in inter-racial relations. We need to get to work, as we are already behind comparable institutions. Please see
- We request that every University committee that has the power to determine policy contains 50% BIPOC individuals.
- We request that the University policies undergo an immediate ‘equity review’ and that changes are in place for approval by the Board of Governors by the next cycle.
- We request that the university make official ‘Black Body Acknowledgements’ in the same way that we acknowledge that the land we are on belongs to our Indigenous communities
- We request that you write and offer for our approval the University’s policy on equity which will be included in the boilerplate of every syllabus, and includes a code of conduct, and steps/actions which will be taken if these codes are violated.
- We request that you cease and desist from sending Black students to RAISE as a means of addressing systemic racism on our campus — that is not their function nor should this burden and responsibility be placed on them.
- We request a meaningful public apology for the oversights you have made in the process of understanding and speaking to anti-Black racisms so far and commit to doing better on behalf of students, staff, faculty, and our community.
- We request an immediate statement on anti-Black racism to be issued from the University in consultation with us and others.
- We request that you immediately restore the archive of your June 6 announcement banning the N-Word. We are not able to locate that document with ease. UW’s documented actions in relation to anti-Blackness must be in clear view. It’s almost as if UW is trying to deny or ignore that the gaffe was made. Gaffes are an inevitable part of getting innovation right. Please make the document available.
- We request that you create a Transitional Year Program for Black high school students, beginning with the WRDSB and WCDSB, to be launched in the 2021-2022 academic year.
- We request that all students be required to take one decolonization/Black studies/anti-racism course throughout their academic careers. This can be housed/framed within the ARTS First/UCOI programs. We are already behind. Dalhousie is already leading in many ways. See https://www.dal.ca/news/2020/06/12/commitment-and-action-on-anti-black-racism–work-moves-forward-o.html
- We request that BASE President and Vice-President roles be instituted as a University funded co-op placement, and that there be an anti-Black racism subset of RAISE.
- We request that the HREI design and implement an anti-Black racism complaint resolution mechanism to address anti-Black racism complaints. Currently a mechanism is in place through RAISE, however this puts the burden of administration on our students.
- That UW follow the lead of Queens, Ryerson, U of T and Ryerson and 230 other institutions, and commits to an institutional membership to the National Centre for Faculty Development and Diversity, an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community for faculty members, postdocs, and graduate students, with a particular focus on faculty of colour. Faculty of colour are the single most important resource to our students of colour. In the same way that we consider it part of our jobs to hold space for, support and defend these students, we would like to see my institution do the same for us, in particular those of us that are pre-tenure, are lecturers, or are working as sessional instructors.
These sixteen items should in no way be considered innovative. We simply should have already been doing these a long, long time ago.
We end where we began, hoping this cycle will be broken during our meeting. So, we share again: before we can innovate together, we urge you to renovate, preparing a path for us to build together in solidarity into the foreseeable future.
Kathy Hogarth, PhD (as member proxy for Black Faculty Collective)
Associate Professor, School of Social Work
Renison University College – University of Waterloo
240 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON Canada
phone: 519-888-4567 x28680