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July 16, 2020 | Campus

U of T-led national dialogue to address anti-Black racism in higher education

Wisdom Tettey smiles, standing under a skylight in an atrium with one hand on a railing.

Vice-President and Principal, University of Toronto Scarborough Wisdom Tettey is co-ordinating a national forum with universities and colleges across Canada to address anti-Black racism in higher education (photo by Dylan Toombs)


The University of Toronto is leading a first-of-its-kind national dialogue focused on tackling anti-Black racism in Canadian post-secondary education. 

The gathering is the first in a series called National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities. Co-ordinated by Professor Wisdom Tettey, U of T vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough and Karima Hashmani, U of T’s executive director, equity, diversity and inclusion, it is a partnership with universities and colleges across Canada.

“Our hope is to facilitate a national conversation that goes beyond talk and actually promotes concrete actions to address anti-Black racism within our institutions and across our sector,” said Tettey.

“The goal is to come up with feasible, effective, and sustainable ideas and actions that meaningfully respond to calls for change by members of our higher education community.”

“The goal is feasible, effective, and sustainable actions that meaningfully respond to calls for change”

Scheduled to take place in late September or early October 2020, the forum will enable participants to share experiences of anti-Black racism in academia, learn from best practices currently being pursued by post-secondary institutions, and come up with concrete actions to enhance them. 

Karima Hashmani smiles as she leans on the back of a sofa in an indoor lounge area.
Karima Hashmani is U of T’s executive director, equity, diversity and inclusion (photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

“We must confront and eradicate anti-Black racism on our campuses and in the world around us,” said President Meric Gertler. “I am grateful to Professor Tettey and Karima Hashmani for leading this national dialogue. It is an opportunity for all of us to work together for lasting change.”

Sessions will address and make recommendations regarding specific topics, such as access and success for Black students, staff and faculty; inclusive teaching, learning and curricula; representation within decision-making structures; enabling community and belonging; responsibilities and obligations of non-Black peers as partners; and how best to collect and use race-based data. 

“The conversation will be as inclusive as possible”

Tettey said the conversation will be as inclusive as possible, with faculty, staff, students and senior administrators from across Canada invited to participate. 

A national co-ordinating committee will also distil the conversations and recommendations into a charter of principles and feasible actions that participating institutions can commit to drawing upon as they address Black inclusion and anti-Black racism in their own contexts.

“I’m proud U of T is leading this unique opportunity to discuss strategies for systemic change,” said Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice-president, human resources & equity at U of T.

“Bringing people together to talk about their experiences and to share best practices will allow us to build on ongoing initiatives within our own institutions and across the educational sector.” 

“The real work is to listen, learn, and partner with Black staff, faculty and students”

Hashmani said developing a national charter of principles on confronting anti-Black racism within the higher education sector is not only important but critical to push the sector forward. 

“More than ever, many are acknowledging the need to address anti-Black racism, but this is not about one solution. The real work is to listen, learn, and partner with Black staff, faculty and students, examine the barriers in our structures and practices, and then create long-term strategies for systemic change,” she said.  

“The national dialogue and action series is an opportunity for the post-secondary sector in Canada to create meaningful change.”  

Hashmani and Tettey said the ultimate goal is for this to be the first in a series of regular dialogues on equity and inclusion in the higher education sector that U of T plans to facilitate, together with other Canadian universities and colleges. Future gatherings will cover topics such as Indigeneity, mental health, disability, as well as the role of institutions in shaping inclusive socio-economic development in their regions and beyond.  

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