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Ryerson Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC) Recommendations on the Terms of Reference for the Task Force on Access, Equity and Anti-Racism at Ryerson University

 

1. Preamble
2. Purpose
3. Mandate
4. Resource and Financial Support
5. Membership
6. Selection Criteria

 


1. Preamble

Twenty years ago Ryerson was a leader in employment equity and diversity practices among Canadian post-secondary institutions. Ryerson was the first to adopt a broad-based human rights approach to all forms of discrimination on campus; the first to implement a successful employment equity hiring policy to increase the numbers of female faculty; and the first to receive an award from the Ontario Government for its innovative equity policies and practices. Ryerson held employment equity and diversity conferences, incorporated equity provisions into its collective bargaining agreements, supported student and employee-initiated diversity and human rights events, funded equity research, provided equity training for its senior management, and supported inclusion of more diversity in parts of its curriculum. Through these practices Ryerson was an equity leader in the academic community.Unfortunately, Ryerson has not responded with the same leadership to the growing racial diversity of its student population, or to issues of institutional (structural) and individual racism on campus. Despite a formal employment equity policy, neither current faculty, staff and administrative representation nor recent hires reflect the changing student body and GTA demographic.

There are serious hiring, teaching and human rights issues at Ryerson. The first step is to actively recruit, hire and retain faculty, staff and administrators from Aboriginal and other racialized groups. In addition, identifying, understanding and addressing structural racism should be evident in Ryerson’s curricular offerings at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and in all Ryerson institutional policies and practices.

In the context of a number of racist incidents on campus in the past year, an Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC) has come together at Ryerson. These incidents include defacing doors of racialized faculty; intimidation tactics of white students towards racialized faculty and students in the classroom; the undermining of racialized employees in leadership positions, with little or no repercussions for such behaviour; and death threats. Furthermore, there have been instances of anti-Semitism on campus, while incidents of Islamophobia and threats toward Muslim students and students who are allies in the anti-racism struggle have continued.

The ARC is composed of employees and students concerned about racist incidents on campus and structural racism in its institutional and individual forms.After considerable discussion and two public meetings, ARC proposedthe formation of a Task Force to investigate, document and make recommendations to address these serious issues. This document presents both the context and terms of reference for the Task Force. We believe that with the steps recommended below, Ryerson can once again become a leader in diversity in one of the most diverse cities on earth.

Definitions and Context: Race is a social construct, an artifact of a social system "invented" or "constructed" to distinguish a group of people as having socially meaningful distinctiveness based on selective physical and cultural criteria. Race becomes real as subordinate groups are racialized by the dominant groups, and placed at the receiving-end of racial practices in society. Racialization is the social process by which certain groups of people are singled out for unequal treatment on the basis of race and other characteristics, whether real or imagined. In this sense, race becomes an ideology because it ascribes superior and inferior identities and racialization the process. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1975) defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life” (article 1). It affirms that, among other things, “any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous” and requires states to “pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races,” and in particular to “engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation” and to “prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation as required by circumstances, racial discrimination by any persons, group or organization.” (http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/resources/discussion_consultation/CoalitionAgainstRacismENG?
page=CoalitionAgainstRacismENG-INTERNAT.html)

Racialization is an historical process. Canada was originally colonized by Europeans, who brought with them their own understandings of race and white-privilege. Formed within the economic expansionist process of slavery and colonization of peoples around the world, racialization was used to justify the genocide of most Aboriginal peoples, enslavement of millions of black Africans, and ill treatment of many immigrant communities such as the Irish, Chinese, South Asian, Jewish, Japanese and Italians. While the content of racialized categories changed as Canada developed as a nation state, the distinction between white and non-white racialized categories – with social-economic consequences for those racialized as white and non-white –has continued. Those racialized as non-white were denied access to power and privilege in Canada, with serious consequences for their equal participation in Canadian life. While the precise impact on each of these groups may differ, these historical experiences continue to shape the lives of Aboriginal, Black/African, South Asian, Chinese and other racialized peoples today in Canada. Muslims and Arabs are the most recent peoples in Canada to become part of this racialization process, with the ensuing consequences of individual and structural racism. However, it is important that these historically-specific experiences and differences, which have shaped current outcomes for a range of racialized groups, are not reduced to the lowest common denominator.

One of the consequences of this colonial legacy has been the prevalence of white-Eurocentrism in public life and public institutions. For example, the curriculum of Ryerson and other educational institutions is shaped by Eurocentric assumptions.Everything from what/who constitutes Canada to when/how Canadian history should be taught and learned, to what constitutes valid and significant knowledge needs to be examined. In addition the University needs to examine how its institutional policies and practices have been framed by these white-Eurocentric assumptions.

While individual acts of racism are often recognized as morally offensive and hate crimes in Canada are recognized as punishable acts by law, institutional or structural forms of racism are far more pervasive and widespread in their effects. They tend to remain obscure in practice, legitimized and shrouded by the dominant norms. Structural racism refers to the functioning of economic and social institutions through which racialized groups become systematically marginalized, discriminated and disadvantaged as those who form part of the dominant community assert their authority and power. Structural racism occurs regardless of individual prejudices, beliefs or intentions and encompasses both individual and institutional forms of racism. The norms, policies and practices set bythe dominant groups can prevent the equal participation of, deny opportunities to and/or create barriers for racialized groups.

The ARC proposed and the administration agreed to the establishment of a Task Force to identify and examine the forms of individual and structural racism at Ryerson University and recommend policies and practice to ensure all who work and study at this University are afforded equal opportunities to study, teach and administer.


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2. Purpose

The Ryerson Anti-Racism Task Force be charged with researching and investigating structural racism including, but not limited to:

  • Policy
  • Inclusive/emerging Curriculum
  • Access to Services
  • Hiring and retention of faculty and staff
  • Promotion and tenure
  • Administration of grants and funding
  • Research: who and what projects get funded
  • Allocation of resources (funding and people)
  • Admissions
  • Diversity issues in the composition of the student body overall and in the context of specific programs/departments
  • Credentializing foreign qualifications and experience
  • Issues of voice and authority in the classroom/work environment
  • Issues of voice and authority in Ryerson University publications
  • Issues of safety and security


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3. Mandate

Approach

  • The Task Force is committed to taking a root cause approach, that is, identifying and addressing through recommendations the root causes of structural and individual racism and discrimination at Ryerson.
  • In addition, the Task Force is committed to investigating issues of structural racism using an analysis that takes into account the intersections of racialized processes with those concerning gender, class, sexual orientation and ability.

On Process

  • Institute a consultative process with faculty, staff and students and the broader Ryerson community
  • Examine multiple aspects of the institutional, work, academic and learning environment at Ryerson
  • Explore systemic barriers to access

On Research

  • Examine quantitative and qualitative research regarding hiring, promotion, retention and admission practices and supports for racialized groups.
  • Investigate grant availability and distribution process.

On Recommendations and Proposals for Change

  • Recommend an ongoing institutional monitoring and accountability process in consultation with the President
  • Recommend anti-racism practice(s), anti- oppression framework(s) across the university
  • Recommend measurable outcomes with defined timelines regarding the implementation of access, anti-racism and equity principles into academic and administrative structures
  • Recommend an implementation framework consistent with broad Ryerson community participation
  • Address issues of future advocacy and mobilization around anti-racism

On Reporting

  • An interim report to be presented at an appropriate time of the Taskforce’s choosing and a final report to be submitted in May 2009 : these reports will include both substantive recommendations, and also recommendations on follow-up and implementation

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4. Resource and Financial Support

Appropriate release time and/or compensatory arrangements should be available to members of the Task Force. Financial resources for staff and related support should be allocated for the work of the Task Force, and for the implementation of recommendations.

5. Membership

Leadership/chair

The Task Force will be co-chaired, with one of the chairs being a member of the Ryerson community and the other a person external to the Ryerson community who is committed to anti-racist practices.

Proposed composition

The Task Force will have the following composition :

  • 2 students
  • 2 faculty members
  • 2 staff members, who will represent the concerns of CUPE, OPSEU and MAC staff
  • 1 member of the senior administration

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6. Selection Criteria

The membership will be agreed upon by the ARC and the senior administration at Ryerson based on the following selection criteria:

  • Knowledge and understanding of anti-racism and colonization issues
  • Experience working on anti-racism issues
  • Activism in the community on access, anti-racism, equity issues
  • Active member of the Ryerson community (except the external co-chair)
  • Commitment and accountability to a collective process
  • Proven ability to consult within and across their sector
  • Skills in listening, analysis and learning
  • Ability to work in a team setting, including an interest and capacity to work through consensus
  • Availability and willingness to attend meetings

In addition, a majority of Task Force members will be individuals from Aboriginal, Black and other racialized groups, and the Task force will reflect a racialized gender balance. All Task Force members should be individuals who clearly understand and are committed to the issues, concerns and goals identified in the purpose and mandate of the Task Force.


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