The University of Guelph has created a broad Anti-Racism Policy Statement for the institution, a first for Ontario universities. This is the next important step in the University’s ongoing commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
“We know that racism is a harsh daily reality for many Canadians,” said Indira Naidoo-Harris, associate vice-president, Office of Diversity and Human Rights. “This is unacceptable.
“As an institution of higher learning, we have a responsibility to build the right foundation for folks to be treated with respect and acceptance,” Naidoo-Harris said. “This statement will give the University community the tools they need to identify and address racism when it occurs.”
Anti-Racism Policy Statement part of larger effort
The policy statement stems from the Anti-Racism Action Plan developed in 2020. In early 2021, the President’s Advisory Committee on Anti-Racism tasked a subcommittee to develop a policy on anti-racism for the University. The subcommittee included diverse voices, perspectives, ideas and experiences of students, faculty and staff.
“Many of our racialized students, faculty and staff don’t always feel as though they are fully welcomed and included members of our community,” said Dr. Jade Ferguson, associate dean, University Academic Equity and Anti-Racism. “The subcommittee highlighted the need for the University to assess policies and practices, processes and attitudes that would ensure fair and equitable treatment.”
The Anti-Racism Policy Statement is intended to help identify, dismantle and eliminate racism in all forms. It defines racism and racial discrimination and clearly articulates the University’s strong commitment to anti-racism.
The policy statement will serve as a foundation for anti-racism and inclusion work at U of G, as part of a larger effort to embed equity, diversity and inclusion, Naidoo-Harris said. “It creates a shared understanding and highlights expectations for our community when it comes to addressing racism and racial discrimination.
“We all have a part to play in building a kind, accepting and fair University where everyone has a sense of belonging,” she added.
The policy statement is a critical step forward in undoing and redressing the impact of racism on campus, Ferguson said. “Systemic racism is long entrenched in higher education. The policy statement outlines the University’s proactive responsibility to reduce the harm of racism on campus and in the broader community.”
Actionable steps in the U of G Anti-Racism Policy Statement
Actionable steps provided in the policy statement include:
- Reviewing, monitoring and implementing policies and practices to address systemic barriers to full participation in all facets of university life.
- Providing pathways to embed anti-racism in pedagogy, curriculum and learning.
- Reviewing and strengthening processes including but not limited to the University’s Human Rights Policy and Procedures which supports a culture of inclusiveness and an environment that is respectful and free of racism and racial discrimination.
- Developing an anti-racism lens to the University’s research ecosystem to embed equitable practices throughout the research lifecycle.
- Providing the campus community with education and resources to recognize, promote and engage in anti-racism and racial equity practices.
- Engaging with members of racialized communities at the University to understand and work to address their needs.
The policy statement focuses on the “big picture” of university activities, said Ferguson. “The emphasis is on the linkages and interactive effects of racism and racial discrimination across teaching and learning, research and recruitment and retention.”
“While specific acts of racism on campus are not addressed, the policy statement does set expectations for a racism-free University environment, which necessitates the reviewing and strengthening of our existing complaint and reporting processes,” Ferguson added.
Strong and effective equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism efforts will better position the University to recruit, retain and develop the best talent from across the world, said Naidoo-Harris, leading to improved programs, services, academic excellence, innovation and student success.
True learning at U of G must be inclusive
The Anti-Racism Policy Statement aligns with other U of G policies, including the Human Rights Policy and Procedures, Policy on Non-Academic Misconduct, Sexual Violence Policies and Procedures, Workplace Harassment Prevention Policy and Workplace Harassment Policy and Prevention Program and the Self-Disclosure Policy.
The Anti-Racism Policy Statement will be updated as needed going forward to reflect changing needs and circumstances at the University and in society.
“Equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism work is a lifelong journey, not a destination,” said Naidoo-Harris.
“Prioritizing this work is foundational and imperative for us to be successful as a post-secondary institution,” she said. “True learning and education cannot happen if it does not include everyone.”
The Anti-Racism Policy Statement is available to the public on the University’s Secretariat’s webpage.