I am writing as Dean, and also as a white, educated woman, a settler in Canada. There are times when the privilege I possess goes undetected by me. There are also times when it does not and events compel a distressing and crucial awareness of the role race plays in one’s experience when dealing with the police, with the university community, and with strangers online. I am speaking out in response to recent high-profile instances of anti-Black racism that we have seen at the University of Guelph locally and, more broadly, to the wider climate. I recognize that I am responding as a person who does not know from firsthand experience the level of pain and fear that are inflicted by such incidents.
I, on behalf of the College of Arts (COA) at the University of Guelph, state that we stand in solidarity with our Black students. At COA we are committed to the study of ethics, of artistic expression in all its forms, of literatures and languages of people across the globe, and to the unique, immeasurable value of all persons. We expect our students to uphold this sense of valuing of each other and respecting each other as the highest iteration of our humanity.
We want to work toward healing and change. We want active conversations about specific ways to make things better for our Black students to acknowledge harms done and to move toward a greater sense of community for students, staff and faculty. My goal as Dean is a COA where everyone can feel visible, safe, encouraged, protected, and heard.
To those of you who have emailed me about the students who have posted anti-Black racist and transphobic material on social media, I can assure you that such actions are taken seriously by the University of Guelph. Disciplinary action will be taken following the appropriate policies and processes. Further, to help ensure that such actions do not happen again, the University is working on a course for Guelph students to take that focusses on anti-racism and anti-oppression, something I strongly support as Dean and as a member of this College.
I have asked for the Guelph Black Students Association to consider parameters for a meeting between the Dean’s office and Chairs and Directors to create an opportunity to listen and, collaboratively, to build a path forward. With the help of Indira Naidoo-Harris, Assistant Vice-President, Diversity and Human Rights, I want to realize plans for ways to enhance a sense of community grounded in utmost respect.
We stand with you. We stand for you. We hear you.