The five minute walk at UTM in winter

Working Against Anti-Black Racism

Alexandra Gillespie

To the UTM community, 

We write to describe some of U of T and U of T Mississauga’s ongoing work to combat Anti-Black racism. 

In March 2021, after a comprehensive review of university policies and practices, U of T’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism published their final report, which outlines solution-focused measures to redress systemic inequities, promote Black inclusion and enable substantive and sustained change—at U of T and beyond. Empowered by tri-campus collaboration among faculty, students, staff and librarians, the report advances 56 recommendations, all embraced as institutional imperatives by U of T’s administrative leadership team, including President Gertler. 

Spanning from governance participation to research funding, from physical infrastructure to pedagogical practice, from data collection to student orientation, the recommendations entail a series of commitments that U of T continues to put in practice, with progress tracked on a public dashboard. As the dashboard indicates, many of the commitments involve work well in progress, such as the redesign of the communications campaign to promote the employee equity survey and the development of new strategies for Black student recruitment and support. Other commitments have been successfully realized already, including the allocation of funding for and the launch of the Black Research Network, based at UTM with the leadership of Professor Beth Coleman

To ensure that similar progress continues over the long term, and to assume added responsibility for action, UTM has assembled an operational group who will support the commitments’ implementation across campus. Coordinated by Heather Hines, Senior Advisor in the Office of the Vice-President and Principal, the group unites academic and administrative experts from UTM and beyond:

  • Nythalah Baker, Director, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; 
  • Martin Kengo, Community Engagement Coordinator, Access and Outreach;
  • Deborah Peart, Recruitment Officer, Office of the Registrar;
  • Professor Sonia Kang, VPP Special Advisor on Anti-Racism and Equity;
  • Professor Negin Dahya, VPAD Special Advisor on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion;
  • Dr. Nicole Kaniki, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Research and Innovation;
  • Mai Lu, Head, Public Services & Outreach, UTM Library;
  • Bianca Okine, UTM Student and Program Assistant, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office.  

Reporting regularly to us, the group will match the task force’s commitments with specific UTM stakeholders; share action plans and timelines; celebrate milestones and champion relational accountability; and suggest areas of need for additional resources. They will also identify opportunities to amplify the alignment of our commitments to the principles expressed in the 2021 Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education and to the insights shared at UTM’s 2020 Retreat on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. And they will partner with colleagues across Equity Offices in the Division of People Strategy, Equity, and Culture to share updates, resources, and better practices. 

We wanted to promote this group’s efforts, not only to thank them for their leadership and celebrate their mandate, but to identify in their mandate a call for communal responsibility. The group’s members will help coordinate plans, facilitate connections, and track progress. But our entire community has to do the work—to implement anti-racist action across administrative units and academic departments, to drive meaningful change in campus policy and workplace practice. We feel grateful to the group for empowering the campus’ commitment to anti-racism and equity. We will feel satisfied when everyone on campus works together to realize it.

So, please expect to hear more from the group in the months ahead on your role in the commitments’ implementation. We know that you’re busy. But we also know that this work can’t wait, especially for people and communities for whom “‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never’.”

For questions about the group’s activities, and to learn more about how you can help, please contact Heather Hines, Senior Advisor to the Vice-President and Principal:

Thank you.

Alexandra Gillespie
Vice-President and Principal
University of Toronto Mississauga