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Update from the Presidential Implementation Committee to Confront Anti-Black Racism

Committee co-chairs provide progress report on student, staff and faculty recommendations
February 25, 2021
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Since the July 2020, release of the Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Review Report, Ryerson has been taking steps to implement the recommendations outlined in the report, as well as additional initiatives across the university to advance equity, diversity and inclusion. 

In July 2020, the university released its  (PDF file) Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Review Report, which outlines the experiences of Black students, faculty and staff on campus. It also contains 14 recommendations that build on Ryerson’s leading role among Canadian post-secondary institutions to create a more inclusive and fully-participatory environment.

As co-chairs of the Presidential Implementation Committee, we are pleased to offer this update on changes to the committee structure and progress made since the release of the report.

Anver Saloojee has completed his term as assistant vice-president, Ryerson International, and has stepped down as co-chair of the Presidential Implementation Committee and chair of the Faculty Working Group. Saeed Zolfaghari, interim provost and vice-president, academic, has been appointed co-chair of the Presidential Implementation Committee along with Deborah Brown and Denise O’Neil Green. Annette Bailey and Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano have taken on the roles of co-chairs of the Faculty Working Group. 

In addition to these changes, considerable steps have been taken on several recommendations from the report, even while working within the significant limitations imposed by the pandemic.

We would also like to highlight additional initiatives across campus to further address anti-Black racism and advance equity, diversity and inclusion. Though not direct recommendations from the report, we include them here in an effort to keep our community up to date on the collective work underway to make our campus more inclusive.

Subcommittees established for a community-driven process

We want to recognize the intensive work required to establish an effective community-driven process. First, the Presidential Implementation Committee has developed the Terms of Reference that outline how the groups will work together to fulfil the president’s charge.

In addition, four subcommittees have been established, and its members have engaged with and continue to participate in education sessions regarding the report’s findings and the degree to which anti-Black racism is embedded in Canadian institutions and individual interactions. 

Made up of members of the Ryerson community, three of the four subcommittees are the Student Working Group (implementing the student recommendations), the Faculty Working Group (implementing the faculty recommendations), and the Staff Working Group (implementing the staff recommendations). The fourth is the Black Student Advisory Committee, with only Black-identified student memberships, who will inform the actions and timelines for the student recommendations from the report and advise the Student Working Group co-chairs. 

As part of the overall process, subcommittee co-chairs have also been seeking input from committee members about their lived experience of anti-Black racism at Ryerson. Further, each of the report’s recommendations are being carefully considered and discussed for additional input and suggestions for implementation.

Progress on implementation of recommendations

Out of the 14 recommendations of the report, eight have begun implementation. Here is a brief summary of what has been achieved to date.

Student recommendations

Student recommendation #2: Campus-wide training in equity, diversity and inclusion across all disciplines and programs that is sustained and reinforced by leadership.

  • The Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion (OVPECI) hosted a campus-wide educational workshop on anti-Black racism that was attended by over 250 students, faculty and staff.
  • An education and awareness facilitator with a focus on anti-Black racism has been hired, and new campus-wide educational sessions are in development for different audiences.
  • Ryerson’s senior leaders have participated in an educational session with Wanda Thomas Bernard, a highly regarded social worker, educator, researcher, community activist, advocate of social change and member of the Senate of Canada, to increase their awareness and understanding of anti-Black racism in post-secondary education.

Student recommendation #5: Funding of events, meetings and information sessions that specifically support and centres on Black students should be created and/or enhanced. 

  • In 2020, Black Excellence at Ryerson was formed to support the development of events and initiatives that specifically support Black students. The Black Excellence Committee is made up of staff from the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students (the Tri-Mentoring Program and Student Life and Campus Engagement); the OVPECI (Education, Awareness and Outreach unit); University Advancement; Experiential Learning; and the Black Faculty and Staff Community Network.
  • Events that centre Black students have been hosted, including the Inaugural Black Students, Faculty and Staff Mixer, the, Black Student Achievement Awards Ceremony, and the Black Graduates Celebration with more to come in 2021.
  • Critical support for Black students has been led by Student Affairs. In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, a weekly student support group was hosted by Student Life and Learning Support. In addition, Consent Comes First established spaces for vulnerability and compassion amongst Black men, and the TMP-BMO summer 2021 internship was dedicated to support Black-identified students and Black-owned businesses in the community.

Student recommendation #6: A dedicated Black student space on campus with the necessary resources allocated to it for Black students to feel safe and a sense of belonging is needed. These resources should involve funds for staffing and programming for Black students.

  • Not yet named, room KHW-077 in Kerr Hall West has been allocated as a dedicated Black student lounge/space. 

Staff recommendations

Staff recommendation #1: A comprehensive review of Black staff compensation, grade, rank and the ways in which Black staff files are handled.

  • The OVPECI (Research, Planning and Assessment unit) presented diversity self-identification data to the staff subcommittee so they can better understand the current representation, distribution, recruitment, retention, promotion and exits of Black staff across the university. 
  • We have begun the process of retaining an external, independent and impartial consultant to conduct a review of our compensation framework through an EDI and anti-Black racism lens. The committee will then analyse the outcome of the review and determine actions to be taken.
  • We are currently recruiting for a director of talent acquisition who will lead the important work of reviewing our hiring policies and strategies to ensure they are grounded in equity, diversity and inclusion and identifying potential barriers. They will also review the diversity data we gather to create benchmarks for improvement. The job posting specifically seeks someone with expertise in anti-Black racism, anti-racism and equity, diversity and inclusion frameworks as well as strategies to incorporate these into talent acquisition and to support career progression.

Staff recommendation #2: A process of building trust among Black staff that involves both unions and senior management at the university.

  • Plans are being developed to build foundational knowledge and competency across all employee groups, especially leaders, in equity, diversity and inclusion and, specifically, anti-Black racism. The committee will be working on core diversity and inclusion and anti-Black racism development for the community. 
  • We are updating our approach to performance management to support increased accountability and competency development for employees in equity, diversity and inclusion and anti-Black racism. The new approach will acknowledge that leader accountability is critical to creating change and fostering trust and that leaders must be held to the highest standard for their behaviours, decision-making and team culture.

Staff recommendation #3: The establishment of programs designed for staff advancement that specifically target Black staff.

  • Best-practice research is underway to inform a career development and advancement program for Black employees.
  • Two members of the staff subcommittee have enrolled in a leadership training course to audit the program and determine its suitability and whether it can be incorporated into an overall programming strategy focused on the development and career advancement of Black staff.
  • Work is underway to explore collecting voluntary diversity self-identification data from job applicants in order to provide the analytics necessary to help advance the hiring of Black employees.

Faculty recommendations

Faculty recommendation #1: Ryerson should design and/or enhance programs for recruiting Black faculty members across all its programs. Cluster hires and other group-based recruitment methods should be experimented with so that new Black faculty entering the university have a community that can be clearly identified.

  • Given the gap in representation of Black faculty, a follow-up study and analysis led by faculty members will be undertaken. 
  • Plans are being developed to create a supportive network across the university for retention of new Black faculty members.
  • The OVPECI (Research, Planning and Assessment unit) has presented data to the faculty subcommittee so they can better understand the current distribution of Black faculty across the university.
  • In collaboration with the Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty Affairs (OVPFA), Human Resources and the OVPECI, targeted language for recruitment ads will be developed to improve the recruitment and hiring process of Black faculty. 

Faculty recommendation #3: Contract lecturers, especially long-term ones, should be made aware of the differences between CUPE and the RFA. Ryerson should work with contract academic staff to provide them with the tools and resources to apply for tenure track positions. This program should have clear and transparent guidelines for application.

  • In collaboration with the OVPFA, training programs and materials for hiring committees will be reviewed. Resources to support CUPE contract lecturers applying for RFA positions will be explored. Resources could include differentiation between CUPE and RFA collective agreements, training around intentional hiring practices and supporting the professional development of hires. 

Additional updates

In addition to the progress that has been made by subcommittees on the report’s recommendations, we are pleased to share updates on campus initiatives that recognize and confront anti-Black racism, combat inequities and further create a safe and welcoming culture of inclusion.

Cross-campus mobilization

Since the murder of George Floyd and a greater awareness of anti-Black racism, many programs and departments across campus have struck their own anti-Black racism or equity, diversity and inclusion committees to examine their climates.

As part of their commitment to engage in a campus-wide effort, these programs and departments are looking at the number of Black students, representation amongst faculty and representation within the curriculum in terms of Black excellence.

This cross-campus mobilization advances Ryerson’s vision to have equity, diversity and inclusion embedded throughout the organization and recognizes that it will take every member of the Ryerson community to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression. 

Funding for student scholarships

Investing in the success of Black students involves creating opportunities for equitable access to education. The report notes that some students expressed a need for Black scholarships, which play an important role in recognizing excellence and opening pathways for Black students to thrive.

Across the campus, Black student scholarships have been developed, including but not limited to the Black Graduate Student Awards, a suite of awards and bursaries established by the Yeates School of Graduate Studies that recognizes excellence and alleviates some of the financial burden associated with graduate education.

Next steps

We would like to thank the subcommittee members and all of the students, faculty and staff across the university engaged in anti-Black racism and equity, diversity and inclusion work, whether in their personal interactions or professional capacities. 

We strongly encourage every member of our community to actively contribute to creating a more equitable, diverse and inclusive campus. Together, we have the power to dramatically change lives for the better.

As co-chairs of the Presidential Implementation Committee, we look forward to continuing our work with the subcommittee members and wider university community to ensure that Ryerson becomes a more inclusive environment for all.

Deborah Brown, Vice-President, Administration and Operations
Denise O’Neil Green, Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion
Saeed Zolfaghari, Interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic

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