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Transformation: Charting a Way Forward

York University’s mission statement reflects a community commitment to social justice. Over the years important work has been done by individual faculty, instructors, staff and students to advance equity and inclusion through research, curriculum, and service. At the same time, York administration recognizes that much more needs to be done to create the organizational change that is inclusive of and responsive to the needs of Black faculty, instructors, staff and students.

In June 2020 President Lenton and Vice-President Cote-Meek began a series of consultations with Black members of York University community, including faculty, instructors, staff and students. In August 2020 they were joined in these consultations by Professor Carl James, Senior Advisor on Equity and Representation in the division of Equity, People and Culture, and Professor Andrea Davis, Special Advisor on Anti-Black Racism Strategy in the Liberal Arts and Professional Studies Faculty. The purpose of these meetings was to discuss these members’ experiences with anti-Black racism on our campuses and to gather concrete suggestions for change. Fourteen written submissions from members of the York community were also received. A second round of consultations occurred during October and November during which a draft anti-Black racism framework was presented for discussion and feedback.

During the course of these meetings, many experiences were shared, including lack of personal and emotional safety, daily experiences of racial harassment, exclusion, discrimination, lack of representation, lack of respect, and barriers to academic and career advancement. Students spoke of not seeing themselves reflected in the faculty, instructors, staff, administration and curriculum, racial profiling and surveillance while on campus, and lack of support. Suggestions on how to reduce systemic barriers and create greater inclusion were also shared.

We know that these experiences have impacted Black faculty, instructors, students, staff, and community members. We understand and accept that racism and White supremacy have been part of academia since its inception. As a result, Black, Indigenous, and other racialized peoples have suffered in innumerable ways. We are sorry for the harm that Black students, faculty, instructors, staff, and community members have experienced.

We acknowledge the impact of the systemic issues at the university and through the development of this framework are committed to addressing anti-Black racism at York University. Our actions must be informed by consultations that will continue throughout the development and implementation of this framework and an equity strategy. We acknowledge that to dismantle the deeply ingrained structures of power and privilege that allow anti-Black racism to thrive, we require a strong, accountable and action-oriented way forward.

This framework incorporates the feedback and suggestions we received through the consultations and is the foundation for a more detailed roadmap that will outline actionable steps in the short, medium and long term. York University is committed to addressing systemic racism and will take steps to create change. Going forward, we will be responsible and accountable to the diverse constituencies of our community including Black community members, recognizing that bringing about systemic change is everyone’s responsibility.

The overall effort of transformation relies on the engagement of the entire York University community, including the full participation of leaders across all areas, Faculties, administration and student services. We are all responsible for ensuring our communities are welcoming and inclusive for all. Resources and tangible supports will be made available to foster the success of this work.