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University of Guelph introducing Black Canadian studies program next year

The University of Guelph is launching a new Black Canadian studies program next fall.

The university is only the third post-secondary school in Canada to offer this kind of program.

Co-chair Jade Ferguson said it’s important to recognize that this program and the courses come from the ground up.

“This came from Black students,” Ferguson said.

“So Black students themselves were the ones who guided us in the ways in which they wanted to see themselves represented in curricular across academic disciplines.”

The design of the program was led by Ferguson, who’s also an English professor at the university, in collaboration with the Guelph Black Students Association (GBSA).

The program grew out of the school’s president Charlotte Yates’s Anti-Racism Action Plan as well.

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Read more: New action plan unveiled at University of Guelph to combat racism

Ferguson said Black university students in Canada, including Guelph, have been engaged in the struggle with school administrators to recognize the importance of addressing anti-Black racism.

However, she says it wasn’t until the murder of George Floyd last May — and the protests that followed in Canada and the United States — that universities were compelled to respond.

“You had presidents across various Canadian universities, including the president of the University of Guelph in June of 2020, clearly denouncing anti-Black racism,” she said.

She said they were denouncing it not simply as a phenomenon that happens elsewhere, but that happens on campuses too.

Read more: University of Guelph among the post-secondary schools to sign Scarborough Charter

The university was among over 40 post-secondary schools across Canada that signed the Scarborough Charter last week, which combats anti-Black racism and promotes Black inclusion on university and college campuses.

Ferguson said a couple of programs on Black Canadian studies are already being offered at other Canadian universities.

And she thinks more post-secondary schools will offer them.

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“The University of Toronto announced its certificate of Black Canadian studies a week ago, the University of Waterloo has a couple of new Black studies programs as well,” she said.

“So I think that we are going to see a number of these programs because I think it’s one of many steps that universities need to take in terms of addressing anti-Black racism and attending to creating Black inclusion in the university.”

Ferguson added that what makes Guelph’s program unique is that it’s attentive to the area’s local history, working with various community organizations such as the Guelph Black Heritage Society.

Ferguson also said this curriculum can and should be taught in high school and elementary schools.

The minor degree program will cover topics like political and labour movements, immigration and health.

She anticipates a high interest in their introductory courses from across the university. The program has five courses and Ferguson expects 10 to 12 students per year for now.

To learn more about the program, including courses and faculty, you can go to the school’s website.

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