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U of W academic worries anti-racism efforts are being wasted

He says he worries the university is more focused on saving face
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Blair Adams/KitchenerToday

A member of the University of Waterloo's Black faculty is calling into question the school's efforts to address systemic racism.

Kofi Campbell is the Vice President, Academic and Dean at Renison University College, which is affiliated with the University of Waterloo. He is part of the Black Faculty Collective who formed in recent time to voice their concerns as a unified voice. This comes as others have been calling out the university and its neutered response to racism on campus.

Campbell says the university has spoken to him and other faculty, but it came only after they formed the Black Faculty Collective.

He says he is worried that any attempts by the university to address anti-racism would be to save face, rather than being done in good faith.

"I'll speak for myself. I don't want to speak for the collective at this point, but I'm certainly concerned that... we've seen these anti-racism committees put together so often in the past before, and often they don't really do anything,” he said. “In the sense, they become an end in themselves, rather than the beginning of a movement.”

Campbell says it's puzzling that a university that prides itself on innovation doesn't reach out to Black faculty, some of whom specialize in studies of anti-racism and race relations.

“I mean with all this work going on, we really expected that we would be spoken to quite often and quite proactively by the institution, and that certainly hasn’t happened,” he said.

“My own feeling is that many universities actually put together these committees for exactly that reason, right? They're a way of really sort of getting people into a room together; getting them to spend a lot of energy and then producing a report which, in some cases, provides cover for the institution, but really doesn't lead to any positive change.”

570 NEWS reached out to the University of Waterloo for comment, and their spokesperson, Rebecca Elming, issued this statement:

“The University of Waterloo is committed to addressing racism, anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism on our campuses. We acknowledge that many members of our community face racism and anti-Blackness every day. We are committed to taking action to change this.

Over the past several weeks, senior leaders at the University including president and vice-chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur have continued to speak with BIPOC students, faculty and staff in our community. The University has found these conversations meaningful and constructive.

The University believes that consulting with individuals with lived experiences of racism on our campuses is vital in creating long-term, meaningful action. We must listen to BIPOC individuals, while recognizing that combating systemic racism should not and does not fall on their shoulders.

The University of Waterloo is committed to action and thanks all staff, students and faculty who have engaged in constructive conversations thus far.”


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