Toward an anti-racist university: Racial (in)equity, intersectionality, and the social injustice of sameness

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On Friday, November 18, members of ACE attended the discussion, “Toward an anti-racist university: Racial (in)equity, intersectionality, and the social injustice of sameness” with Malinda Smith from the University of Alberta, presented by the YUFA Race Equity Caucus. Dr. Smith talked about the need for better equity in Canada’s colleges and universities. In past decades, there have been many equity policies proposed, but they have not been fully acted upon because there still a great lack of full-time Indigenous faculty and faculty of colour.

Dr. Smith also had some notes about challenging talking about whiteness that we’d like to share for everyone to consider:

Talking about racial inequity and the social injustice of sameness engenders various anxieties in white people, which can shutdown efforts to change:

– Challenging claims of objectivity: White peoples’ viewpoints came from a racialized frame of reference

– Challenging racial innocence: Receiving feedback that one’s conduct had a racist impact

– Challenging societal taboos on talking about race: People of colour talk about their own experiences of racism

– Challenge to white racial expectation and need/entitlement to racial comfort: People of colour choose not to protect racial feelings of white people in regards to race

– Challenge expectations that people of colour are “the help” and there to serve white people

“We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interests and perspectives, Further, we are centred in all matters deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good”. – Dr. Robin Diangelo, “White Fragility”

Thanks Dr. Smith, for the great talk!

Scholarship Writing Workshop for BES and MES Students!

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Are you a BES or MES student interested in applying for the Ontario Graduate Student (OGS) scholarship, and/or Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Master’s award?

Come to this help sessions for advice and tips!

We’ll have the FES Student Resource Assistant share important info on the applications and past student winners share tips on applying. **Please bring 3-4 copies of your research statement for past recipients to edit**

Featuring snacks from GESSA!

Date: Wednesday November 23
Time: 1:00-3:00pm
Where: HNES Room 141

All Out November 2 for Free Universal Education!

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On November 2, 2016, students across the country are showing their support for free, universal access to education and challenging student poverty. ACE supports the call for eliminate tuition fees and invites all students and allies to come to the events on November 2!

The York Federation of Students has secured Academic Amnesty for November 2. This means that professors and instructors are OBLIGATED to accommodate you if you choose to participate in this day of action. Even if you have an assignment, exam, presentation, or even just participation marks – if you inform your professor they are required to give you an alternate date. Letters will also be distributed on the shuttle busses if you require proof of participation.

The students united will NEVER be defeated!

DAY OF ACTION DETAILS

9:00am – 10:00am
Free Pancake Breakfast in VARI HALL

10:00am – 11:00am
YFS Rally in VARI HALL

11:00am
Bus Departure to Ryerson University (Arrive at Noon)

12:00pm-2:00pm (Estimated)
March to Queens Park

2:00pm-4:00pm
Rally at Queens Park

5:30pm
Bus Departure from Queens Park to York University

ACE Open House: September 27, 2016

Hey all–

We would like to welcome new and old ACE members! We’re looking forward to a new year of radical organizing and student empowerment!

We would like to welcome you all to our fall Open House in HNES 114 (ACE Office) on Tuesday September 27th from 11am – 2pm to find out how to get involved with ACE! Hot (vegan) snacks and refreshments will be available.

ACE is also looking for two more York students to join our executive (see below for position descriptions):

1 Undergraduate Student Advocacy and Outreach Officer
1 Graduate Student Advocacy & Outreach Officer

If you’re interested in one of these positions please attend our Open House for more information and we’ll hold interviews for the positions soonafter. Apply here!: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1OxklwSwDZCGzp2XqV_BpsEbbVn1hDsCz1he5mNr44wQ/prefill

For more information and any accessibility concerns, please e-mail aceatyorku@gmail.com.

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Undergraduate Student Advocacy and Outreach Officer (1 position):

– To work with the appropriate Executive Council members on the different aspects of hosting an event.
– To work with the Executive Council to promote information and materials to the undergraduate population and the larger community.
– To be included in the planning and execution of all ACE events.
– To propose and implement strategies to further enhance equity in the larger York Community.
– To liaise with Undergraduate Students’ Associations in their respective colleges and faculties.

Graduate Student Advocacy & Outreach Officer (1 position):

– To work with the appropriate Executive Council members on the different aspects of hosting an event.
– To work with the Executive Council to promote information and materials to the undergraduate population and the larger community.
– To be included in the planning and execution of all ACE events.
– To propose and implement strategies to further enhance equity in the larger York Community.
– To pursue relationships and make connections with other organizations and institutions within the York University community.
– To liaise with Graduate Students’ Associations in their respective colleges and faculties.

Honouring Black Leadership: The Equity Committee at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University Thanks Black Lives Matter Toronto

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The Equity Committee at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University expresses gratitude to BLMTO for their leadership in revitalizing social movements across the city. On 3 July 2016, their successful action at Pride Toronto won increased spaces and resources for queer and trans Black, Indigenous and people of colour, including Black Queer Youth, Blockorama/Blackness Yes!, as well as increased ASL interpreting. It also won the promise to remove armed and uniformed police from the parade in order to make Pride events safer for all LGBTQ2S people, including those from communities that are frequently profiled and criminalized.

We are disappointed by Pride director Mathieu Chantelois’ apparent back-pedalling on these promises, and the ensuing harmful backlash against BLM activists in the press, social media and among Toronto city councillors, who are currently attempting to legislate Toronto Police Service’s participation in the Toronto Pride parade. This active withdrawal of solidarity from the Black Lives Matter movement comes at a time when Black communities are mourning massive loss of Black lives and are fearful for their safety. In the week after Pride alone, there have been at least seven killings at the hands of police and civilians. We urge politicians, police and opinion makers to respect the autonomy of sexual and social justice movements, which are not up for state control and legislation. We urge Pride Toronto to respect their honoured guests, remember their commitments, show public accountability to their members and communities, and honour the histories that have brought us Pride.

These histories, like those of so many social movements, are shaped by Black leadership. As the Equity Committee at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, we owe our existence and success to the work of many generations of Black students and colleagues at York, who have fearlessly drawn attention to racial profiling and anti-Black racism on campus, the failures in recruiting and retaining Black, Indigenous and people of colour students, the inaccessibility of many of our programmes and facilities, the underrepresentation of Black and Indigenous faculty at York and at FES, and the problematic role of the University in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood.

Like Pride Toronto, the Equity Committee is indebted to our Black leaders, who have undertaken countless actions for equity under the most life-negating circumstances, often without receiving much support or reciprocity from non-Black people and communities, who are the beneficiaries of affirmative action and other gains. We affirm here and now that this leadership keeps all of us vigilant to the haunting presence and ugly consequences of injustice and inspires us to do the hard work that is needed to overcome it. We therefore support the courage and strength of Black students at York and elsewhere, and all those who work alongside them in BLM.

Now BLM are modelling to us what an accessible, accountable and transformative community that equitably distributes resources and power along intersectional lines looks like. In March and April 2016, this took the shape of the hugely successful two-week Tent City Occupation, which drew Torontonians’ attention to the police killings of Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby, the erasure of Black spaces in the city, and the ongoing practice of racial profiling. In addition to being an effective site of intervention, Tent City was a queer-positive site of education, healing and community building, which showcased the best of racial, sexual, economic and healing justice.

We endorse all of BLMTO’s demands. We remind everyone that all of us benefit from their commitment to make our world just and safe for all. We also call attention to their demands for sexual and social justice spaces that affirm Black people’s lives and safety, and which are free of armed and uniformed police. We appeal to Pride Toronto and others in the city to acknowledge these lessons from BLMTO, and to treat this crucial movement with the respect that it deserves.

Black Lives Matter,  Blockorama/Blackness Yes! and BQY’s Demands of Pride:

  • Continued space, including stage and tents, funding and logistical support for Black Queer Youth.
  • Self-determination for all community spaces at Pride, allowing community groups full control over hiring, content and structure of their stages.
  • Full and adequate funding for community stages, including logistical, technical and personnel support.
  • Doubling of funding for Blockorama to $13,000.
  • Reinstatement of the South Asian stage.
  • Prioritizing of the hiring of Black transwomen, Indigenous people and others from vulnerable communities at Pride Toronto.
  • More Black deaf and hearing sign language interpreters for the festival.
  • Removal of police floats in the Pride marches and parades.
  • A town hall organized in conjunction with groups from marginalized communities, including but not limited to Black Lives Matter – Toronto, Blackness Yes and Black Queer Youth, in six months, where Pride Toronto will present an update and action plan on BLM-TO’s demands.

ACE 2016-2017 Executive Elections

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The Accessibility, Community, Equity (ACE) Committee is student-run organization based out of York University. We work around issues of equity and anti-oppression through an intersectional approach along the lines of race, gender, class, orientation, and ability in and beyond academia. ACE organizes workshops, seminars, and peer mentorship sessions all geared at offering students some of the necessary social and emotional supports needed for their success.

We are gearing up for the 2016-2017 academic year and will be holding elections for our executive team.

To run for a position, you must be an active ACE member who is a York University student. An active ACE member is a York University student who has in the 2015-2016academic year been active with ACE in at least one of these ways:

  • Has attended an ACE general membership meeting
  • Or is an active member on our listerv
  • Or has volunteered with ACE
  • Or has attended more than one of our events
  • Or has attended our open house

Here are the positions:

– 2 Co-chairs
– 1 Disability Services Officer
– 1 Graduate Student Advocacy & Outreach Officer/Community Liaison
– 1 Undergraduate Student Advocacy and Outreach Officer
– 1 Communications Officer

(Descriptions for the positions can be found below. You can only hold one position).

Folks who are interested in running for a position should fill out this application by April 14th 2016: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1OxklwSwDZCGzp2XqV_BpsEbbVn1hDsCz1he5mNr44wQ/viewform

In this application you will be asked to provide a 100-150 word statement outlining why you are running for this position, what experience you have with ACE, what you hope to do in your position next year. Statement will be posted on our website: www.aceatyorku.wordpress.com

Voting will take place via online voting e-ballot from April 25th-27th, 2016. E-ballots will be distributed to our membership on April 25th and online voting will close on April 27th. To vote, you must be an active ACE member.

Summary of important dates:

  • Nominations are due April 14th
  • E-voting will commence from April 25th-27th

Our Chief Returning Officer is Sarah Switzer. If you have any questions please contact her at: switzers@yorku.ca

Position descriptions:

Co-chair (2 positions)

  • To oversee the external image of ACE.
  • To support all appointed committee members in their tasks.
  • To work with the Director to organize and prepare the agenda for all meetings.
  • To call all Executive Council meetings to order.
  • To meet with York University administrative personnel when called upon.
  • To organize Executive Council office hours and meetings.
  • To include issues raised by members in the meeting agenda.
  • To provide support, vision and guidance to the Executive Council
  • To delegate tasks and distribute the workload of the Executive Council.
  • To be a signing officer of ACE and the club bank account at York.
  • To oversee and upkeep the club’s budget.
  • To have knowledge of the club’s financial situation at all times.
  • To prepare a finance report for each Executive Council meeting.
  • To follow up with the Executive Director on all outstanding financial transactions.
  • To apply for funding from all possible outlets and to follow up on submitted applications.
  • To aid and assist in maintaining the functionality of the club.
  • To be included in the planning and execution of all ACE events.
  • To propose and implement strategies to further enhance equity in the larger York Community.
  • To maintain a consistent communication channel with the membership body To assist in the promotion of all ACE events.
  • To report to the Executive Council, any concerns brought forth by members and/or other York University clubs, and address them accordingly.
  • Maintain Google Docs and electronic document databases pertinent to ACE.


Disability Services Officer (1 position):
 

  • To mentor students and assist them in navigating services and resources at York University.
  • To advocate for services and resources on behalf of students.
  • To act as the liaison between ACE and disability support services at York. This requires attending meetings and/or email correspondence.
  • To help with the growth and expansion of ACE through the creation of promotional materials and recruitment.
  • To be included in the planning, promotion and execution of all ACE social and academic events.
  • To propose and implement strategies to further enhance equity in the larger York Community.
  • To pursue relationships and make connections with other organizations and institutions within the York University community.

 

Graduate Student Advocacy & Outreach Officer/Community Liaison (1 position):

  • To work with the appropriate Executive Council members on the different aspects of hosting an event.
  • To work with the Executive Council to promote information and materials to the undergraduate population and the larger community.
  • To be included in the planning and execution of all ACE events.
  • To propose and implement strategies to further enhance equity in the larger York Community.
  • To pursue relationships and make connections with other organizations and institutions within the York University community.
  • To liaise with Graduate Students’ Associations in their respective colleges and faculties.

 

Undergraduate Student Advocacy and Outreach Officer (1 position):

  • To work with the appropriate Executive Council members on the different aspects of hosting an event.
  • To work with the Executive Council to promote information and materials to the undergraduate population and the larger community.
  • To be included in the planning and execution of all ACE events.
  • To propose and implement strategies to further enhance equity in the larger York Community.
  • To liaise with Undergraduate Students’ Associations in their respective colleges and faculties.

 

Communications Officer (1 position):

  • To work with the Co-chairs to organize and prepare the agenda for all meetings.
  • To act as the liaison between ACE, and other equity groups at York. This requires monthly meetings or email correspondence with the representatives of these respective groups.
  • To respond to any questions brought to the attention of the ACE Executive Council via E-mail.
  • To maintain a consistent communication channel with the membership body via E-mail, Website, and Facebook.
  • To aide and assist in maintaining the functionality of the club.
  • To help with the growth and expansion of ACE through the creation of promotional materials and recruitment.
  • To be included in the planning, promotion and execution of all ACE social and academic events.
  • To propose and implement strategies to further enhance equity in the larger York Community.
  • To pursue relationships and make connections with other organizations and institutions within the York University community.
  • Create, update and maintain an internet domain for ACE
  • To report to the Executive Council, any concerns brought forth by members and/or other York University clubs, and address them accordingly

 

An Open Letter to CUPE 3903

Dear Members of the CUPE Executive

With each year, comes hope for change, but for change one must first recognize the problem. This year’s Executive ran on a platform of transparency, inclusivity and anti-racism. Over the last year, as a co-chair of student organization Accessibility, Community, Equity Committee (ACE), I’ve become aware of the ongoing issues of anti-Black racism that seems to have permeated the union walls, perhaps leaking from white supremacist university infrastructure, or perhaps the residual impact of the labour union movement’s notorious racist and misogynistic history. ACE is mostly comprised of racialized students who are acutely aware of the issues surrounding identity and the way our bodies are read and pathologized on a daily basis both on and off campus. This letter has been reviewed and enriched by current and past members of the ACE committee, and so is presented as a collective commentary and call to action.

In the last 6 months, ACE has been contacted frequently to seek support for the ongoing inundation of anti-Black-racism CUPE Executives and parts of the local have been involved with, starting with the push back in hiring a highly qualified Black woman, due to unfounded allegations by her former employer, which reeked of racist retaliation. And yet the Executive and parts of the local were quite willing to engage in anti-Black-racism under the guise of criminal discrimination – regardless that no charges or verdict have occurred in this matter. Most recently, we have been asked to support a member, who was a strong advocate on behalf of racialized students and students with disabilities, who chose rescind her 2016-2017 Executive nomination application versus continue to navigate the ongoing racist push back by the Executives and insinuation that she may steal a lap top that came with her position. The fact that the member was treated like a criminal is horrific and shameful. I would like bring to your attention our own CUPE 3903 equity union mandate:

Union solidarity is based on the principle that union members are equal and deserve mutual respect at all levels. Any behaviour that creates conflict prevents us from working together to strengthen our union – ** we can see a violation of this mandate based on the ongoing anti-black racism from the local.

As unionists, mutual respect, cooperation and understanding are our goals. We should neither condone nor tolerate blatant behaviour that undermines the dignity or self-esteem of any individual or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. – ** the lack accountability from others regarding ongoing anti-black racism from executives is a violation of this principal. 

Discriminatory speech or conduct which is racist, sexist, transphobic or homophobic hurts and thereby divides us. So too, does discrimination on the basis of ability, age, class, religion, language and ethnic origin.

Sometimes discrimination takes the form of harassment. Harassment means using real or perceived power to abuse, devalue or humiliate. Harassment should not be treated as a joke. The uneasiness and resentment that it creates are not feelings that help us grow as a union.”

Anti-Black racism manifests in lethal policies towards Black people, police shootings of Black people, high incarceration rates, high dropout rates, complete absence of the epistemologies of Black people from the curriculum, etc. It is a racism that must be understood through histories of enslavement, through the environmental catastrophe that was the trade in Africans and the slave plantation, and the knowledges which justified all this.

I have participated in various forums and panels that ask, “Where are the Black faculty at York?” this was the continuation of a conversation started in a film 8 years that was created by a Faculty of Environmental Studies alumni, Blakka Ellis. However, in the context of a growing student movement against anti-Black racism in our city and in the community around York University, we might reframe this question to ask: “What does anti-Black racism look like at York?” Our students have given us the answer to this over and over again when they have documented and pointed to the following issues:

  • The absence of Black representation in union executives or staff who look like the people targeted in anti-Black racism;
  • Few, if any, executives who have demonstrated a critical race analysis or understand and advocate from a perspective that names and confronts anti-Black racism;
  • The circulation of old anthropological ideas around phenotype, as well as new racist ideas around the social construction of race that denies the materiality of racism, and so on;
  • Poor understanding and often a denial of the systematized violence and racism directed at Black people, especially those who are visibly ‘Black looking’

Many of you learn that race is socially constructed.  Nevertheless, and as you know, these “constructions” have a long history of covert and overt material effects. It has been carefully documented that Black and Indigenous groups are most affected by these. The growing force of a movement like #BLACKLIVESMATTER that names police-generated violence draws attention to this as does the movement against missing and murdered Indigenous women.  At this time, calling attention to the social construction of race can serve to deflect attention from the lethal violence with which all Black and Indigenous communities are familiar and the consequences of this for everyday lives.

As a Black woman I visited the #BLACKLIVESMATTER tent city protest, where many of my community have slept for 300 hours. Many Black students were insulted by the notice of your support in CUPE’s newsletter, and by the audacity for you to be present at the BLMTO Black Out rally with your CUPE 3903 flags, with Black students in solidarity with Black lives. Many York Black students/your members found this violent and insulting. You are using Black lives as your props and to stage CUPE 3903 as an equitable organization—Black students want you to stop! You must stand in solidarity with your Black union members before promoting yourself as an ally to our Black communities. The hypocrisy of promoting CUPE 3903 as an ally, while 2 letters are circulating regarding your perpetuation of the very racism and anti-black-racism you state you are against.

Signed,

Accessibility, Community, Equity Committee (ACE)