Addressing anti-black and anti-Asian racism, UBC and SFU presidents vow to create more inclusive campuses

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      After increased anti-Asian attacks during the pandemic, as well as the George Floyd solidarity protests, the presidents of two of B.C.’s leading postsecondary institutions in Vancouver have released statements to explain what each university will be doing to take action to address discrimination.

      UBC president and vice-chancellor Santa Ono released a statement on June 1 to say that efforts to make the campus more inclusive will be accelerated and increased.

      Ono, on behalf of the university, denounced all racism against black, Asian, and Indigenous people and communities, while acknowledging that UBC “itself is not immune to racism and prejudice” and is also “benefiting from the privilege of being on unceded land”.

      “We must work together to dismantle the tools of oppression and white supremacy that remain prevalent and entrenched in our everyday systems,” he stated.

      Ono said he will be meeting with the Black Caucus and the Asian Canadian Community Engagement Group; allocating President’s Excellence Chairs to black and Indigenous faculty members; ensuring funding continues for identity-based spaces and organizations; implementing the Inclusion Action Plan for recruiting, retaining, and supporting black students, staff, and faculty; ensuring training for all public-safety officers and authority figures to eliminate  biases; and more.

      Among the steps that the university will be taking will be holding a public engagement series about anti-racism, hosting a virtual town hall, and examining means for increasing inclusion.

      Over the years, UBC has faced a number of controversies arising from appearances at campus facilities by speakers and organizations associated with or allegedly affiliated with discrimination, white supremacy, or hate speech, including Ben Shapiro, Ricardo Duchesne, and Frances Widdowson.

      Simon Fraser University
      Maxvis/Getty Images

      One day after Ono released his statement, SFU president and vice-chancellor Andrew Petter also issued a statement.

      Petter addressed anti-Asian, anti-Indigenous, and anti-black discrimination and violence by stating that SFU is “acknowledging the role we play in perpetuating systemic discrimination, and accepting that we have work to do to ensure that our ideals for a just society are reflected in our own practices, policies and procedures”.

      He explained that in 2019, SFU appointed an executive team (supported by an advisory council) to develop an equity, diversity, and inclusion action plan for the university and to eliminate systemic barriers and inequities in numerous areas, including access, admissions, recruitment, pay, working and learning conditions, resources, and progression.

      “It’s all of our responsibility to combat racism, but none more so than those of us who have benefited from white privilege,” Petter stated.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.