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Canada-wide study of Anti-racism policies points finger at university Administration

September 11, 2011

The University of Ottawa’s consultation process on its new Policy on the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment continues into the Fall semester, with a student-run, campus-wide consultation event scheduled for September 20 in the University Centre (link to previous posts about racism on campus).

As Canada’s University prepares to finally join practically every other university in the country with an Anti-Discrimination policy, it is a good time for students to look at recent scholarly work on the issue, in view of demanding a fair and just policy.

The book Racism in the Canadian University (edited by F. Henry and C. Tator) was published in 2009 by the University of Toronto press and contains a chapter by York University Women’s Studies professor Enakshi Dua entitled “On the Effectiveness of Anti-Racist Policies in Canadian Universities: Issues of Implementation of Policies by Senior Administration.”

Dua slams the current state of anti-racism policies at Canadian universities and their lack of effective implementation:

“Simply put, members of senior administration denied that racism existed in their institutions, and would respond defensively to cases of racism.  As these twelve practitioners (University Human Rights & Equity Officers) reflected on the meaning of such policies within their universities, they noted that the policies worked as “window dressing,” as they allowed university administrators to appear to meet their legal obligations to address racialized inequities.”

Dua’s study looked at anti-racism policies from 37 Canadian universities, and included interviews with University and Union Human Rights & Equity Officers from 10 Canadian universities.

Should not the results of Canada-wide studies such as this one should be made front-and-centre in the consultation about the new anti-discrimination and harassment policy of Canada’s University?

Dua concludes:

“While a number of policies have come into being, rarely are these policies effectively implemented.  And, as we have seen, the most serious impediment to the successful implementation of such policies is the unwillingness of senior administration to address racism.”

Perhaps Canada’s University should take the national lead for once and enact the necessary measures to avoid “the most serious impediment” to eliminating racism on Canadian university campuses.  With senior administration across the country failing to implement these policies, how can we shape ours to ensure that the admin-obstacle is avoided?

We could put the power to administrate the policy in student/faculty hands instead?

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