CAUT town hall on systemic racism in the academy
The latest CAUT town hall event focused on ways that academic staff associations can combat racism and de-colonize campuses.
“It is not enough to have policies, you need leadership and voluntarism and you need to hear the people who live that reality,” insisted CAUT treasurer Yalla Sangaré. “We must be courageous, stand up and fight for equity, diversity and inclusion and come up with practical solutions.”
Sangaré called on faculty association to do better. “I myself have been involved in my own association. We bargained about salaries, pension, benefits and many other things, but we had very little battles about equity. We know that there are problems ranging from the pre-selection of candidates to the lack of support once someone is hired and also with promotion and tenure. We have to realize that an injustice against one is an injustice against everybody.”
“The reality is hard to accept, but there are people suffering more because the way our society is organized,” said Frances Henry, York University professor emerita and a pioneering researcher and leading expert in the study of racism and anti-racism.
Henry added that research shows that leadership in our institutions needs to champion equity in order for real change to occur.. “This is why the search committee has to be scrupulous about the commitment of future presidents toward equity, diversity and inclusion,” insisted Henry.
Zaa Joseph, representative of Indigenous staff on the CAUT Equity Committee, emphasized the need for the post-secondary sector to create a place where equity-seeking groups and Indigenous students and staff will have a sense of belonging and where a real dialogue is possible. “We minimize our own trauma by not speaking about it,” said Joseph.
Laurentian University professor Amélie Hien, and a member of the CAUT Francophones’ Committee, recognized that the issue of systemic racism is sometimes contentious with some colleagues. “But we need to recognize that some policies, laws and systems are flawed and that certain forms of racism and inequities are more subtle.”
Samira Belyazid, professor at Université de Moncton and a member of CAUT’s Equity Committee, says while things have improved over the last 30 years, more action is needed. “A lot of professors and students still experience racism often. Our students are more courageous than we are, and they don’t hesitate to denounce the situation publicly.”