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McMaster University president calls anti-Black racism review ‘deeply disturbing’

McMaster University has released a review of the black student-athlete experience at the school.
McMaster University has released a review of the black student-athlete experience at the school. McMaster University

The president of McMaster University is calling the findings of a review of the Black student-athlete experience at the school “deeply disturbing.”

The document finds there is systemic anti-Black racism in the Department of Athletics and Recreation, and in a letter to the McMaster community, David Farrar apologizes for the anti-Black racism that athletes experience on campus.

The review was launched in July in the wake of reports about anti-Black racism experienced by former McMaster student-athletes and looked as far back as 2010.

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“On behalf of the University I apologize for the anti-Black racism you experienced,” wrote Farrar. “I am deeply sorry that effective action was not taken to prevent this; there are no excuses for the behaviour you endured. I assure you that we are listening and that action is already being taken to implement the report’s recommendations and to begin the work with the Department and the broader university community to help us eliminate systemic racism.”

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Farrar says the experiences that Black student-athletes recounted in the report point to a culture of systemic anti-Black racism within the department, and adds “action is already being taken to implement the report’s recommendations” to help eliminate systemic racism.

The report includes a number of recommendations as to how the university can begin to address the issues that were submitted to lead reviewer Dr. Ivan Joseph, the vice-provost of student affairs at Dalhousie University and the former director of athletics at Ryerson University.

The report included 72 interviews with current and former Black student-athletes, other student-athletes, coaches and administrators.

Sean Van Koughnett, McMaster University’s Associate Vice-President of Students and Learning, and Dean of Students, calls the report’s findings “concerning.”

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“There are recommendations around increasing representation, funding, physical space for Black student-athletes and Black students,” says Van Koughnett. “We’ve already got a job posted for a senior advisor on equity, inclusion and and anti-racism. We are establishing, at a steady state, 40 athletic financial aid awards of $4,500 each for Black student-athletes. We are hiring a Black student services front-line staff worker. We are establishing an internship program for young Black individuals who have aspirations of being in an athletic, administrative or coaching role.”

Van Koughnett calls the items “a starting point” and indicates that other initiatives to address systemic racism will be forthcoming after they consult and collaborate with the Black student and Black student-athlete community to determine what else should be done.

“I sincerely thank Dr. Joseph, all of the Task Force members and especially the student-athletes who shared their life stories in such meaningful ways,” said Farrar. “When McMaster initiated the Task Force and appointed the lead reviewer, we asked for an honest and forthright review that would create a deeper understanding of the Black student-athlete experience and set the course we need to follow to eliminate systemic racism. The report has delivered exactly that. We are grateful to have such a clear understanding of the issues and of the important work we need to do.”

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