On Monday, October 4, the McGill Media Relations Office hosted a roundtable led by members of McGill administration to address questions regarding McGill’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism (ABR) and Strategic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Plan.
Professor Angela Campbell, Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies), and Professor Terri Givens, Provost’s Academic Lead and Advisor, sat down with student press to address questions about the new action plan and its potential effects on McGill students.
For many, including Black Students’ Network (BSN) President Rele Orimalade, these initiatives have been a long time coming. “We are tired and we are hungry for change,” Orimalade said. “The passion and determination present within the community is obvious to me. I feel it every day through my interactions with Black students, fellow BSN executives, and Black staff.”
The ABR action plan was first proposed in September 2020, with promises to expand institutional support for racialized students and hire more faculty of colour. Other plans included expanding the administrative support budget and enhancing support for the African Studies Programs.
The EDI action plan, launched in the spring of 2020, aimed to increase the representativeness of the student body, raise student awareness of oppression and discrimination, enhance the capacity of teaching staff, and ensure policies have effective channels to address EDI concerns and complaints. Both the ABR and EDI recognize that the actions addressed in their plans are an ongoing commitment, but have laid out a five year plan in hopes to meet all the commitments set out by the end of that period.
“Both plans, although they will go ahead to the Senate, are meant to be platforms for dialogue. While they meet a governance requirement, they are important to engage with our community and get feedback,” said Campbell, with reference to both reports. “We are looking for feedback to help shape and steer [McGill’s] course for the road to come”.
Campbell also noted that the ABR action plan is a “multi-pronged effort” when asked by the Bull and Bear why the plan commits largely to expanding resources for those experiencing racism at McGill, rather than action that would reduce targeted racism on campus. “There are the support resources, but we are also seeing support, education and response.” Campbell also emphasized in-person facilitated training sessions and online modules for students. “When there are instances of discrimination that occur, there is a robust mechanism and set of resources with respect for investigating those claims”.
One concern about the effectiveness of the EDI and ABR action plan is the possible lack of incentivisation to actively engage in modules (like the online It Takes All of Us Module), given their completion is mandatory. Some worry that lack of focus during the modules are common, since students simply skip over to complete them. Modules are a key factor in both plans, as they hope to educate both students and faculty through online modules and other online platforms. “In-person modules have to be seen as complementary. [Systemic racism] is a deep, deep challenge, and there must be ongoing work through multiple [avenues].” said Campbell.
Racism commonly occurs on campus through daily instances of microaggressions; Orimalade recounts when a McGill employee told him that he wasn’t allowed to wear his durag on campus, because “‘we’re not thugs at McGill’.”
Campbell acknowledged that “microaggressions happen a lot, are upsetting to people who experience them, and are not restricted to any person or member of the McGill community. When they occur, the difficulty is that those who want to report them, those who might take the report might not understand, since microaggressions are based on lived experience”. The ABR plan addresses this, as seen in Action Item #2: expanding institutional support for racialized students.
The EDI action plan sets out multiple commitments and subsequent plans of action to not only address systemic racism or discrimination on campus, but strategize ways to both address concerns and continue the conversation. Givens was “overwhelmed by the positive approach [to addressing discrimination] that was present in workshops that have already happened”.
Orimalade echoed this sentiment, saying: “To all the people who dedicate large amounts of their time and energy to working on action plans, workshops, developing counselling and mentorship programs, and many more initiatives, we appreciate you.”