Scores of faculty, students, and staff sign letter to SFU president regarding violent arrest of Black alumnus

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      (The following letter has received scores of signatures from Black faculty, staff, and students at SFU and their allies. Video of the arrest can be seen here and here.)

      December 13, 2020

      President Dr. Joy Johnson,

      The following members of the Black faculty, staff, and student body at Simon Fraser University, along with Indigenous, POC, and non-BIPOC allies, condemn the actions of SFU Safety and Risk Services - including their employees and contractors - and Burnaby RCMP that resulted in the violent arrest of a Black alumnus on December 11, 2020.

      The statement issued by SFU Safety and Risk Services is not adequate. We are not distressed by the comments and videos posted on social media. We are distressed and traumatized by the knowledge that being Black at SFU is not “safe, accepted, [or] appreciated,” as SFU’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion might claim. We are relentlessly violated by persistent anti-Black racism and state-sanctioned violence where we live and work. Using the pandemic - which has disproportionately harmed BIPOC and economically disadvantaged individuals, especially those who are precariously housed - as justification for criminalizing the behaviour of a young man and endangering his life is shameful. 

      We demand a comprehensive public inquiry into the incident and events precipitating it. We demand support for the alumnus - a member of our SFU community - in the form of financial reparation, healing supports, and legal representation, should he need it. We demand that students’ requests for de-escalation be heard and that conversations between students and SFU be honoured. We demand that the ongoing issue of racial profiling and discrimination at SFU be addressed immediately. 

      In your response, you characterize this event as a “learning opportunity.” This was not a learning opportunity. This was an act of discrimination and violence against a Black man on SFU campus. Data from SFU’s Diversity Meter survey, conducted in 2019, confirmed what many of us already know: racialized people, disabled people, members of marginalized communities “do not feel included and valued” and “have experienced harm in our community.” Dr. Johnson, you have said that you heard us; you said SFU “must address the systems which allow discrimination to occur.” Can you still hear us? What will you do?