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'We're excited to begin this important work at Concordia'

Read a message from Graham Carr about the President's Task Force on Anti-Black Racism
October 29, 2020
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By Graham Carr

Black and white photograph of the front of the EV building on Concordia's downtown Campus.

Since its founding, Concordia has aimed to provide broad, equal access to opportunity. Living up to those ideals means applying the spirit of unbiased inquiry that informs our academic mandate and every aspect of our operations. When it comes to combating systemic racism in society, we need to lead by example.

This was the impetus for creating what is now the Indigenous Directions Leadership Council in 2017 and the launch of the Indigenous Directions Action Plan in 2019.

It is in this same spirit that we have created a university-wide Task Force on Anti-Black Racism. The murder of George Floyd in May, preceded by those of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery earlier in the year, amplified international cries in support of Black Lives Matter. These events sparked worldwide demands for action to tackle anti-Black racism that is systemic in our institutions.

Here at Concordia, an open letter circulated in June demanding we take action. We listened. Since that time, Interim Provost Anne Whitelaw has been working closely with members of the Black Caucus of Concordia and other stakeholders to design the structure and membership of the task force we are launching today.

Together with task force co-chairs Angélique Willkie, Stéphane Brutus and Annick Maugile Flavien, I am excited to begin this important work at Concordia.

Mandate

Our task force’s mandate is to oversee and coordinate the work needed to address systemic anti-Black racism as it occurs across the university, whether in our policies, our teaching and learning practices, or in the experiences of our faculty, staff and students.

For co-chair Angélique Willkie, the task force represents “a chance to look squarely at our institution through the eyes of its Black community and question its tenets. For me, it’s very much about making sure that we are seen and heard and considered — not simply made invisible.”

Co-chair Stéphane Brutus echoes this statement: “Racism is a complex, multi-faceted issue and, yes, Concordia has to be representative of the society in which it is embedded, but there is a lot more to the task force — such as acknowledging history and raising awareness of this issue within and outside the university via education.”

A three-time graduate of Concordia, co-chair Annick Maugile Flavien comments: “The university cannot be colour blind and impartial to injustice. It has a responsibility to actively participate in dismantling racism on all levels, whether interpersonal or systemic. Once it has fully taken on that responsibility there will no longer be a need for a Task Force on Anti-Black Racism, as our perspectives will be justly considered in all areas.

Task Force Composition

Reporting to Interim Provost Anne Whitelaw, the task force will be led by:
  • Angélique Willkie, associate professor of contemporary dance, Faculty of Fine Arts
  • Stéphane Brutus, professor of management, John Molson School of Business
  • Annick Maugile Flavien, founding coordinator of the Black Perspectives Office
They will serve as co-chairs of a 15-person Leadership Team that also includes:
  • Undergraduate and graduate students: Harvin Hilaire, undergraduate student; Lisa Ndejuru, graduate student
  • Alumni and union representatives: Evan Pitchie, Concordia alumnus; Linda Dyer, Concordia University Faculty Association; Jacqueline Peters, Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association; Sarah Mazhero Concordia Student Union
  • Black Caucus of Concordia (BCC) member: Jamilah Dei-Sharpe, BCC coordinator
  • Leads of the eight subcommittees
The eight sub-committees’ topics and leaders are as follows:
  1. Campus security: Lisa White, Office of Rights and Responsibilities
  2. Anti-Racist education: Sharon Nelson, John Molson School of Business
  3. Concordia’s history and relations with Black communities: Annick Maugile Flavien, Black Perspectives Office
  4. Curriculum and educational resources: Françoise Naudillon and Angela Kross, Faculty of Arts and Science
  5. Student services: Lisa Ndejuru, PhD student, Faculty of Arts and Science
  6. Faculty development: Linda Dyer, John Molson School of Business and Roch Glitho, Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science
  7. Employment initiatives: Jacqueline Peters, Faculty of Arts and Science
  8. Fundraising: Andrea Clarke, Office of Community Engagement

You can find more detailed information on the sub-committees’ objectives here.

Lessons Learned

As we learned with the Indigenous Directions Action Plan, broad stakeholder engagement and leadership will be crucial to the success of the Task Force. On that note, I want to thank the many members of Concordia’s Black student, faculty, staff and alumni communities for the important conversations over the past few months that have been instrumental to the design of this task force.

I am also pleased that, as a result of those conversations, we are announcing three important commitments to mark the striking of the task force. They are:

  1. Moving the Black Perspectives Office to the Office of the Provost to give it institution-wide scope
  2. Authorizing three tenure-track faculty searches centred on Black perspectives for the 2021-2022 academic year
  3. Investing $250,000 in new scholarship funding for Black students beginning their programs in fall 2021, with a commitment to double that amount through fund-raising

In related actions the university announced the establishment of an Equity Office on October 22 and awaits the report of the Working Group on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion on November 4.

Milestones Ahead

  • The task force will finalize the membership of the sub-committees and issue a preliminary workplan to the interim provost by November 30, 2020.
  • A progress report on the work of the subcommittees will be presented to the interim provost by April 30, 2021 identifying immediate action items where possible.
  • A full set of recommendations and proposed action plans will be submitted to the president by April 30, 2022.

An Important Journey

As I wrote this spring, Concordia does not tolerate racism or violence of any sort. Our goal should be to nourish an institutional environment that is inclusive, inspiring and innovative. The task force is a vital step toward realizing those objectives.

Together we are embarking on a process of undoing as well as building. At times it may be uncomfortable. The work will require time, patience and conviction from every one of us.

As with any institution that embraces change, Concordia will always be a work in progress. I believe that the task force will bring Concordia to an even better place where all can thrive and feel immense pride in our university.

 

Thank you and take care,

Graham Carr
President and Vice-Chancellor
Concordia University



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