Winter Term Anti-Racism Update

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WUSA
Wed, 02/24/2021 - 14:00

anti racism

We gave an update on our Anti-Racism efforts during the Fall term. We shared our ongoing advocacy on this issue and committed to an org-wide internal review amongst other plans, to address the concerns of our BIPOC students. Though we have made some headway since our last update in Fall, the unfortunate environment that warranted advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion for racialized and marginalized students persists. We are sharing our progress from these past months and our plans in line with our commitment to transparency during this journey. 

Internal Work 

Internal Review – This January, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant alongside WUSA President, started work on the internal review of our organization. Their work will include a review of our processes and structures in a bid to spot lapses and develop a framework and set of recommendations that help us become a more equitable student association. The work they are doing has been prioritized within the organization and is receiving the support of management and staff. Though the process is only just beginning, we are hopeful the outcome will be beneficial and will continue to give updates on the process. 

The Long-Range Plan – Our guiding document for the next five years, provides a glimpse of strategies and principles that will form the backbone of our operations. Racial equity is built into many pillars of the document and is imperative to our success. The document will ensure that for the next five years, each set of execs and staff are aware of the importance of racial equity and build them into their projects and campaigns. 

Racial Equity Training – Our Senior Leadership team continues to train and educate themselves to ensure diversity and inclusion at every decision-making level. This training will be cascaded formally to managers and all full-time staff in the coming months. We are already in a conversation with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion on equity training for staff and hope to begin these training in batches as early as April 2021. This training, once completed, will provide a good foundation in our continued effort to be more intentional with diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

We are also working with the Equity Office and Integration Generation to create new training strategies for students engaging with our governance. This training will be offered in April to prepare and transition the new governance teams. 

Funding Anti-Racism Initiatives – We continue to offer support through peer-to-peer student-run counselling services. Part of the support is our commitment to an $8k fund available to services and clubs for Anti-Racism Initiatives. That fund is still available through The Student Life and Endowment Fund (SLEF) and students can apply through our SLEF page on our webpage. 

We are also working to create a more specific Equity Fund under SLEF. The Equity Fund will support equity initiatives that students and student groups organize throughout the year. The fund is currently seeking approval from the Internal Finance Committee and we hope to get a positive response soon. 

University Advocacy 

PART – WUSA’s policy on the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce has passed the 2nd reading and undergraduate student representatives have been appointed as members of different working groups. The appointed representatives are: 

We are working to get representation on the taskforce itself and will continue discussions with PART on the specific goals of these working groups and how we can support them. 

Co-operative and Experiential Education – The Co-operative and Experiential Education Student Equity Advisory Group is conducting a review of CEE’s processes and services for students through an equity and anti-racism (EDI-R) lens. Having a student voice to provide insight on this work is integral to its success. 
 
The student consultants will provide feedback on various initiatives currently underway or planned to be started in the future by CEE staff. BIPOC students are strongly encouraged to apply by sending an email to Brent Thornhill at bthornhill@uwaterloo.ca. Application ends on February 26, 2021. 

Counselling Services – We have been working with BASE and Counselling Services in advocating for, creating and hiring a Black student support Counsellor. This specific support has been an ask of Black students, notably advancing through the work of RAISE, and UWBASE. More details will be released in the coming weeks. 

External Advocacy 

Current Government Advocacy: 

During the Fall term, your VP Education and President spoke to MPPs about the importance of racial equity in post-secondary education. Take a look at our calls to the government on page 4 of OUSA’s brief package. In WUSA’s provincial budget submission, we are also calling for funding from the government for equity work on our campuses. We are hopeful that the Province will hear our calls and support post-secondary institutions in conducting critical equity work.  
 
We wrote a letter to the provincial government in the Fall, asking that they prioritize funding for community supports over policing. We are disappointed by the lack of action taken by the Province on police reform, and recognize this is not the desired outcome for many groups and individuals asking for these changes. We will continue to support our community members affected by policing while seeking out other opportunities to advocate on this issue.  

Through the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities, we are continuing to call on the government to increase funding to end the backlog of Indigenous students striving to access post-secondary education. 

Advocacy in Development: 

We are updating and creating new advocacy policy through our provincial collective student advocacy group, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). VP Education, Megan Town, and AVP Provincial & Federal Affairs, Muriuki Njonjo, have been working on OUSA’s first Racial and Religious Equity policy paper, highlighting the specific advocacy needs of racialized and marginalized students. The first draft of the paper is expected to be approved at OUSA’s General Assembly in March. If you are interested in providing feedback on the draft paper, please contact Megan at vped@wusa.ca. Students can also get involved by attending OUSA's (virtual) GA. Deadline to apply to attend the GA is February 28, 2021. Check out our Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Conference Delegate page.

This year, OUSA is also renewing its Indigenous Students policy paper. Following the authorship team’s decision to modify the drafting schedule to allow more time to hear and elevate our Indigenous students’ concerns, WUSA is helping to create consultation avenues that are thoughtful, easily accessible and respectful of students’ time. 

Into the Future – Our work is far from done. We are committed to continuously reviewing our processes to create a more equitable student association, to listening and advocating at all levels within and outside the university. Please continue to reach out to us for advocacy support and make use of our Incident Reporting Form, where you can confidentially share your experience.