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Student Services Respond to Anti-Black Racism

Student Services Respond to Anti-Black Racism

Date: Thursday, June 11, 2020
MEMO
 
TO:          SJU Students, St. Jerome’s University Students’ Union
CC:          Dr. Scott Kline - Interim President, Dr. Cristina Vanin – Interim Vice President Academic and Dean,
                 Dr. Veronica Austin – Associate Dean, Mike Gourlay – Executive Director, Finance and Administration
FROM:    Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, Enrolment and Upper-Year Transition
DATE:     June 11, 2020
RE:          Anti-Black Racism and Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) at St. Jerome’s University

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This has been a difficult time for students at St. Jerome’s University, with our community and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) students hurting immensely.  

 

Violence and oppression stemming from anti-Black racism permeate many different systems and structures in St. Jerome’s University, Ontario, Canada, and around the world. For far too long, specific incidents of racism and on-going injustice continue to significantly impact and hurt many within the St. Jerome’s Community. 

 

St. Jerome’s University student leaders, from all areas of the University, including the Students’ Union, have been utilizing their privilege, roles, and voices to speak up, advocate for, and work hard to ensure St. Jerome’s is truly a diverse and welcoming community, where racism is addressed, and justice is sought. As a university, we must all join our students in this pursuit.  

 

As staff teams within Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, and Enrolment and Upper-Year Transitions, we acknowledge:  

  • That our departments and staff lack the lived experiences, identities, and perspectives that are crucial for informing equity work and implementing actions toward meaningful change and justice; we are predominantly white and hold unearned privilege and roles of influence.  
  • Because we work for a faith-based institution and a Canadian Catholic University, we participate in – and benefit from – systems that favour white people and whiteness, including the extensive impacts of colonization. 
  • That a statement to condemn racism now is too little and too late. We take responsibility for our individual and collective actions that have failed to make space for the experiences, wisdom, and feelings of BIPOC in our community. 
  • All our students – especially those whose voices are often minimized or silenced – are the core of our community and the SJU student experience. This cannot be forgotten or understated. 
     

We know that it is our job to act, and that we will not be able to make meaningful change alone. We support the actions to address anti-Black racism, and equity, diversity, and inclusion, identified by St. Jerome's University, and our Student Leaders. We are committed to those actions and that work. We know that allyship is not something we can claim, but something that must be continually earned and renewed through action. 

 

As a starting point, we strongly advocate for the following as important committed actions for St. Jerome’s University: 

  • We will advocate to the SJU Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion President’s Working Group for diverse student representation to ensure BIPOC identities and lived experiences are included. 
  • We will advocate for St. Jerome's University to establish an Advisory role to the University on anti-Black racism matters, priorities, and strategies for moving forward. This individual will need to be external to the University and BIPOC.  
  • We will advocate for St. Jerome’s University to review all university level and department level strategic and academic plans to identify opportunities to embed equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism – with specific goals to address anti-Black racism.  

Students, and specifically BIPOC students: 

 

We are sorry for our silence in these days and throughout the years. Our ignorance and inactions in the past have caused and continue to cause you pain.  It has never been our intention, and we take responsibility for the impacts. We take responsibility for the additional pain that has been caused by our silence. We promise to do better at revealing and condemning instances and systems of racism in our midst. 

 

We want to be accountable, and as a first step this letter is intended to let you into our headspaces and heartspaces, so you know where we’re at now and where we commit to going. We are writing from our hearts with openness, compassion, and willingness to learn. We know that a letter cannot heal anyone’s pain. We invite you in response to follow up with us and engage with us in an ongoing dialogue seeking truth, justice, and belonging for all.

   

As a starting point, Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, Enrolment and Upper-Year Transitions commit to the following:                                                                                                                        

  • When we contract external services for student staff and leader training, we commit to hiring BIPOC facilitators and speakers to deliver all forms of content related to anti-racism training.  
  • We will advocate to the SJU Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion President’s Working Group, and St. Jerome’s University for more specific services and resources that meet the unique concerns and needs of BIPOC students. 
  •  We commit to ensuring that our staff teams are educated about systems of oppression and anti-racist practices, and that each staff person continually engages in personal reflection about the privileges and powers we hold, including how our white privilege impacts others in our community and our work in supporting all SJU students.  
  • We commit to having specific training for Student Leaders Teams (including Residence Dons, Student Activities, Peer Academic Leaders, Campus Ministers, and Experience Guides/Officers) and Service Learning Programs on anti-racism practices, and offer on-going professional development on topics including inclusion and belonging.  
  • We commit to offering specific inclusivity and diversity learning and training for all incoming first-year students in residence and co-registered students, open as well to any upper year students who wish to participate. 
  • We commit to ensuring that everyone in our community is aware of and empowered to access the resources and supports, including informal and formal options for resolution, through the University of Waterloo Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion Offices.  
  • We commit to undertaking a review of all hiring and selection practices for student staff and student leader positions within our departments.  
  • We commit to further developing our connection and partnership with the University of Waterloo Equity Office. 
  • We commit to consulting with BIPOC students and student groups, with respect to these and further steps, to increase accountability of our anti-racism learning and work, and to hear and amplify student concerns and voices within SJU. 

We plan on holding ourselves accountable to these actions by: 

  • Ensuring that timelines and completion dates are added to each committed action by July 1st, 2020. We don’t intend to make commitments we can’t keep.  
  • Meeting with the St. Jerome’s Students’ Union Executive consistently (monthly) on equity, diversity, and inclusion, and anti-racism work to ensure timely completion and tracking of action items, and the creation of new actions. 
  • Dedicate and maintain a section of our website to provided updates on action items and completion status, and on-going work connected to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and anti-racism.  
  • Add a new section to the SJU Connect Newsletter to communicate publicly to students on a consistent basis, our ongoing actions regarding these commitments. 
  • Holding a student Town Hall each term to gain insight, feedback, and provide a platform for student voices.  

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These committed actions and accountability measures are a starting point, and not a completed list.  

 

Recognizing that we still have a lot to learn, in humility and service we are here for you. Even as we continue to learn how to be better listeners, advocates, and champions, and knowing that we will make more mistakes along the way, we offer you our support. 

 

John Arnou,  

Acting Director, Student Affairs, jarnou@uwaterloo.ca  

 

Sue Brubacher,  

Director, Enrolment and Upper-Year Transitions, sue.brubacher@uwaterloo.ca  

 

Martha Fauteux, 

Director, Campus Ministry, mfauteux@uwaterloo.ca