University of Guelph to establish new anti-racism policy statement

University of Guelph have implemented an anti-racism policy statement. The Canadian Press/Stephen C. Host

The University of Guelph is establishing a new anti-racism policy statement.

The statement is a first by an Ontario university, according to a news release, and it is an important step in their ongoing commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

“Many of our racialized students, faculty and staff don’t always feel as though they are fully welcomed and included members of our community,” said Dr. Jade Ferguson, associate dean of University Academic Equity and Anti-Racism.

“The subcommittee highlighted the need for the University to assess policies and practices, processes and attitudes that would ensure fair and equitable treatment.”

The university says the anti-racism policy statement is intended to help identify, dismantle and eliminate racism in all forms. It defines racism and racial discrimination and clearly articulates the university’s commitment to anti-racism.

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“As an institution of higher learning, we have a responsibility to build a right foundation for folks to be treated with respect and acceptance,” said Indira Naidoo-Harris, associate vice-president of Office Diversity and Human Rights.

“This statement is giving the university community the tools and the resources that they need to identify and address racism when it occurs.”

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The policy statement is based on the university’s anti-racism action plan that was first developed in 2020. A subcommittee was tasked by the President’s Advisory Committee on Anti-Racism in early 2021 to develop a policy on anti-racism for the university.

“Something that is complex and challenging, you want to get it right because a policy like this affects so many people,” Naidoo-Harris said. “There are so many hopes and aspirations that are built into a statement like when you are committing to fight racism.”

Actionable steps provided in the policy statement include:

  • Reviewing, monitoring and implementing policies and practices to address systemic barriers to full participation in all facets of university life
  • Providing pathways to embed anti-racism in pedagogy, curriculum and learning
  • Reviewing and strengthening processes including but not limited to the University’s Human Rights Policy and Procedures which supports a culture of inclusiveness and an environment that is respectful and free of racism and racial discrimination
  • Developing an anti-racism lens to the University’s research ecosystem to embed equitable practices throughout the research lifecycle
  • Providing the campus community with education and resources to recognize, promote and engage in anti-racism and racial equity practices
  • Engaging with members of racialized communities at the University to understand and work to address their needs

“The emphasis is on the linkages and interactive effects of racism and racial discrimination across teaching and learning, research and recruitment and retention,” said Ferguson. “While specific acts of racism on campus are not addressed, the policy statement does set expectations for a racism-free University environment, which necessitates the reviewing and strengthening of our existing complaint and reporting processes.”

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While the policy statement does not address related issues like antisemitism and homophobia, Naidoo-Harris says the university is affirming the fundamental principal of equality, adding that is the true power of the document.

“We’re saying that we hear you, we are looking around the world and we see that there are issues,” Naidoo-Harris said. “We recognize that it is our responsibility and commitment as a university and a large organization to provide for the equal rights and opportunities without discrimination.”

The university says the policy statement will be updated as needed to reflect changing needs and circumstances at the university and in society.

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