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Staff and Recommendations

Table of contents

Black staff at Ryerson are adamant that anti-Black racism is a defining feature of their work life at the university. Staff articulated everything from banal day-to-day racism to larger and more systemic issues like compensation disparities, inability to move up the ranks, being passed over for promotions and being on contracts or “termed positions” long-term. The precarious nature of staff positions led to many concerns about the confidential nature of this report but they still felt it was necessary and important to participate. Some staff feared reprisals, while others were indifferent, and many hoped that this report might lead to a sustained and programmatic change in the institution.

Black staff expressed the following: being passed over for positions; having criteria for open positions changed on them; having their experience and years of service treated differently from their white counterparts, and; being disadvantaged by nepotism and or not belonging to cliques and/or other social formations that work to benefit others who want to move up in their careers at the university. Black staff feel like perpetual outsiders.

Relatedly, Black staff are also distrustful of the unions that are supposed to represent their interests. They reported being talked out of bringing grievances and close ties between union representatives and human resources professionals. In terms of the latter, Black staff felt that the reputation of Ryerson as an institution where a number of people in important decision-making positions have worked together for a long time often worked against Black staff and their interests and future goals at the university.

Staff members who have been long-term Ryerson employees shared stories of being promoted but being offered less compensation than their counterparts even though they had more formal education. They also reported being told that they did not qualify for a position because they lacked an educational credential (for example an undergraduate degree) only to see the position given to a white colleague who similarly did not have the requisite credentials. Other long-term staff told stories of applying for positions and not being considered only then to be asked to train the person hired for the position. Black staff feels strongly that the institution is incapable of seeing them in positions of authority.

A small number of Black staff who hold positions of authority spoke of the hostile environment in which they must do their work and of attempts to undermine them in their positions. One such person even mentioned being physically assaulted by their supervisor. 

Again, the paradox is that many of the Black staff articulated that they took positions at Ryerson based on its assumed diversity only to be disappointed by the lack of respect for diversity. Thus, staff spoke of “disparities in treatment” and being “singled out by supervisors” and/or being told that they were passed over for promotion because they lacked “visibility in their present role.” Many staff admitted that they often felt like “the odd one out” in their units making it challenging to go to people about concerns. Finally, Black staff spoke of taking it upon themselves to mentor Black students and to look out for them in other ways because of the hostile environment that they have witnessed in their units. Thus, Black staff took on roles beyond their paid positions out of a moral and ethical responsibility to the university community. These roles were and are done out of their own sense of fairness and justice and are not shared with those they are looking out for. Indeed, in some of the professional programs Black staff pointed out that disparities result in who among the students are selected for or supported in their internships and other placements in contradistinction to Black students. This is just one example of this ethical care they must take on.

Ultimately, staff asked themselves the question: “Why did I stay here this long?” Many long-term staff felt demoralized. They spoke of being at the university for ten years or more and still being at the same employment grade. Black staff experience their work life at Ryerson as constantly being entry level, resulting in a somewhat pessimistic outlook for Black staff at the university.

Staff Recommendations

  1. A comprehensive review of Black staff compensation, grade, rank and the ways in which Black staff files are handled.
  2. A process of building trust among Black staff that involves both unions and senior management at the university.
  3. The establishment of programs designed for staff advancement that specifically target Black staff.