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Faculty and Recommendations

Table of contents

Ryerson is not dissimilar from the post-secondary landscape in Ontario and Canada as it pertains to the underrepresentation of Black faculty. As such, Black faculty at Ryerson find themselves isolated in their departments and programs. They also find themselves burdened in a number of ways that are unique, chief among these being the mentorship of Black students, which adds to their already heavy workloads. Black faculty experience themselves as having to represent more than their areas of specialization and teaching. They are also greeted with suspicions about their expertise from both colleagues and non-Black students; and Black faculty report the workplace as a hostile environment. 

Contract Faculty

Contract faculty are particularly precarious and cautious about speaking up for fairness and justice. Contract faculty were unclear about how or why contracts were renewed and/or not renewed and some of them perceived non-renewal as punishment for speaking out. In this instance two contract faculty raised concerns about the relationship between departmental hiring practices and union advocacy and representation. Black contract faculty perceived a relationship between departmental leaders and union representatives that worked to disadvantage them and to impede grievances and ultimately fairness. Contract faculty raised further concerns about their union but were reluctant to give further detail. In fact, Black contract faculty are wary of raising curriculum issues for fear of non-renewal. Additionally, contract faculty report a scholarly culture among students and tenured/pre-tenure stream faculty in which suggestions for adding more material on Black people are either diminished or dismissed outright.

Tenured and pre-tenure stream faculty

Tenured and pre-tenure stream faculty carried huge burdens of mentoring students and developing avenues in their respective programs for Black students’ success. For example, faculty were told that tensions and differential treatment between student program cohorts exist. It was explained that one cohort of students tends to be predominantly younger and whiter, while another cohort tends to be mature students who are primarily Black and/or racialized. The latter’s wealth of experience and knowledge is often ignored, diminished and trivialized. The mature cohort are often returning for certification mandated by the ministry. Therefore, practices of mentoring the mature group were done informally because of hostility to centring Black scholarship and Black student experience in programs. When a singular faculty member who is not tenured is faced with challenging a department to do better, it is most likely that the faculty member would stand down in the face of hostility. The placing of tenure in jeopardy is a significant incentive to not rock the boat. And of course, Black tenure-stream faculty want to survive to achieve tenure and stated in many different ways that obtaining tenure would enable them to have some decision-making power in their departments, an ability they felt they presently did not have. It is important to note that most of the Black faculty interviewed in the tenure-stream had recently arrived at Ryerson University. These faculty found their workloads to include, as previously mentioned, looking after the best educational interests of Black students beyond their classroom interaction with them. Black faculty noted that their official roles as scholars, teachers and advisors extended to significant emotional support for Black students they encountered. While not yet ready to move into leadership roles, these faculty mentioned that seeing Black faculty in leadership positions would enable formative change in their respective departments, an idea they felt strongly about.

Dr. Grace-Edward Galabuzi and Dr. Akua Benjamin

Dr. Grace-Edward Galabuzi (Associate Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration and lead of the PDF file2010 Taskforce on Anti-Racism, Ryerson University) and Dr. Akua Benjamin (Professor Emeritus and former Director, School of Social Work, Ryerson University) at Social Justice Week in 2019

Faculty Recommendations

  1. Ryerson should design and/or enhance programs for recruiting Black faculty members across all its programs. Cluster hires and other group-based recruitment methods should be experimented with so that new Black faculty entering the university have a community that can be clearly identified.
  2. Black faculty currently at Ryerson should be given support and resources to deepen, expand and experiment with new and innovative curriculum in Black Studies in their departments, programs and fields.
  3. Contract lecturers, especially long-term ones should be made aware of the differences between CUPE and the RFA. Ryerson should work with contract academic staff to provide them with the tools and resources to apply for tenure track positions. This program should have clear and transparent guidelines for application.
  4. Contract faculty should be given a clear sense of how and why their contracts are not renewed.