Anti-Black racism: An apology and a commitment

I have been President of FAUW for almost three years now. In this time, I have not done enough advocacy and work on behalf of Black faculty colleagues to eliminate the systemic racism they face at our University and even within FAUW. For this I am truly sorry. The FAUW Board also apologizes for not doing more on this front.

FAUW is committed to joining the fight against systemic anti-Black racism on our campuses. In addition to this apology, we commit ourselves to:

  1. Listening to Black faculty colleagues.
  2. Learning about the systemic racism Black faculty colleagues face to help inform our next steps.
  3. Better enabling and encouraging Black faculty members to participate in FAUW decision making and reducing barriers to full consultation.
  4. Identifying possible ways to address anti-Black racism, including changing problematic policies and practices that reinforce the racism Black faculty colleagues face.
  5. Continuing to consult with Black faculty colleagues on any actions we identify before implementing them.
  6. Taking meaningful actions that go beyond talking or blogging like this, so that changes in policy and practice actually happen—both within FAUW and at the University.
  7. Advocating for change for Black faculty colleagues.

Although we have not done nearly enough yet, we started this work in earnest after the last Senate meeting. As part of this effort, we have met with the Black Faculty Collective (BFC) three times since then. The BFC informally represent the small number of Black faculty on the Waterloo, Renison, St. Paul’s, St. Jerome’s and Conrad Grebel campuses (they count 8 faculty). Discussions at these meetings informed the steps outlined above.

Our discussions so far have also made clear to me the fundamental importance of white people like me stepping forward to do most of this work, because underrepresented Black faculty can’t possibly do it on their own—nor should they have to. Let’s not forget, Black faculty are here to do teaching and research. So FAUW’s learning, work, actions, and advocacy need to move forward based primarily on significant investments of our own time and energy. But neither should FAUW fail to listen and fully consult.

The process will take much longer than my few weeks left as FAUW President, and longer than the one year I will serve as Past President starting in September. Despite this, I pledge to be in this fight against anti-Black racism for the long haul and I will do my best to equip FAUW to continue this work after I step away from the organization.  

Bryan Tolson,
FAUW President

UW statement risks chilling Black anti-racism scholarship

On June 6, in relation to a matter with a faculty member that prompted a public outcry and media response, the University of Waterloo told the press that “The University of Waterloo unequivocally believes that there is no place for the use of the N-word in class, on campus or in our community.” 

At the June 15 meeting of University of Waterloo’s Senate, we heard from UWaterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur that the University would revise and reissue this statement, but we still feel it is important to release our response, originally written prior to this announcement at Senate. At the time we are publishing this response, the University’s June 6 statement is still online in its original form. 

FAUW is deeply concerned about the harm that racialized students, colleagues, and community members experience because of racist language. We are also concerned about the chilling effect that the University’s statement will have on University of Waterloo scholars, especially on Black, Indigenous, and other racialized scholars who research and teach about race and racism. Indeed, we are aware that at least two local Black scholars have also expressed this concern to the University in the last week. 

FAUW strongly opposes the prohibition implied by the University’s statement. Whether a word is appropriate for use in class is a scholarly decision that instructors must be free to make. In particular, instructors who teach about race and racism must be free, according to their best judgement, to lead unvarnished discussions about racist language. 

FAUW President Bryan Tolson made the following statement at the June 15 Senate meeting: 

Continue reading “UW statement risks chilling Black anti-racism scholarship”