Standing Against Anti-Black Racism

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:

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.

Lucy Fromowitz,
Vice-Provost, Students

Communication History

The Division of Students stands together against anti-Black racism

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.

Sincerely,

Lucy Fromowitz
Vice-Provost, Students