Dear President Mamdouh Shoukri and the York University Administration,
As members of the York community and the Accessibility Community Equity Committee (ACE) at the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), we are deeply disturbed by the actions taken by yourself and the York administration in response to safety concerns on campus. Safety on campus is essential for healthy environments for all students studying at York. This environment cannot, however, be fostered by facilitating a large police presence on campus who have predictably resorted to racially profiling members of our community. This has been further exacerbated by the vague security bulletins that easily identify hundreds of students on campus as potential suspects, primarily targeting young black men, and more broadly people of colour on campus.
These incredibly problematic descriptions can be applied to any black male student on this campus and thus further perpetuate incredibly damming stereotypes about the ‘criminal, violent, Black boogieman,’ who ought to be feared as they are the ‘epitome of danger.’ Such ludicrous inferences are divisive and instigate unwarranted fears within the York community. We are worried for their safety, as a community already harassed by these same vague and racist police descriptions outside of this campus.
To make matters worse, these notices and the university’s subsequent partnership with Toronto Police Services have given officers the right of way to stop and question black male students on campus without any lawful cause. The aforementioned outcomes of these decisions made by York infringe on the rights of these students to study, work, learn and teach in an institution free from harassment, violence and systematized discrimination. This is especially relevant in this instance because of the historic and ongoing forms of exclusion, oppression and discrimination faced by racialized bodies in universities across the country.
As a community we are at an urgent point of intervention and need to maintain a safe, equitable campus for all students. We welcome the prospect of a town hall to discuss this critical problem, but are disappointed by the restrictive two-day notice. This insincere attempt at a consultative process limits the community’s ability to prepare and contribute to the content of this forum, ultimately silencing students in the process. A greater point of concern is your decision to invite the Toronto Police Service to attend this town hall just months after an officer from the Toronto Police Service openly intimidated and verbally attacked a community member for being critical of their policing approach at a similar community meeting organized by the Jane Finch Crisis Support Network. We believe you cannot expect to have an open and honest conversation when conversation around the very real effects of racial profiling and racist stereotyping is at risk of being stifled.
As members of the York community who work to address issues faced by marginalized and racialized students on campus, we will continue to work with other groups on campus who are committed to creating a safe, nurturing space for students and will also stand in strong opposition to any attempts that seek to legitimize or perpetuate racial profiling on campus.
This letter serves as a first step in ongoing conversations towards the betterment of relations between York students and the administration.
Accessibility, Community, Equity Committee at York University (ACE)
Faculty of Environmental Studies