University commits to actions to address systemic racism
This is an excerpt of an article originally published on Waterloo Stories.
Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor, has announced a series of actions to address systemic racism following weeks of consultations.
In an email to campus, Hamdullahpur confirmed that the University intends to establish academic programs for Black Studies as well as Indigenous Studies and will also set goals to increase the number of Black and Indigenous faculty members.
The eight commitments are the first actions to come from recent consultations and will allow the University to develop a collaborative approach to developing a long-term sustainable strategy for tackling systemic racism.
“These meetings have shown me how much our institution needs to do to address anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, indeed all forms of racism faced by people on our campuses,” said Hamdullahpur. “As we move to strengthen our community, our approach will remain focused on consultation driven by BIPOC individuals. I want to stress how enormously valuable the input has been so far – we have tremendously passionate people who are helping to make our University better.”
Stressing that the eight actions are “only the first actions in … a series of recommendations that will come from further consultation”, Hamdullahpur confirmed that the University will:
- Start the process to establish both a Black Studies program and an Indigenous Studies program.
- Create a Black cultural centre on campus.
- Begin the implementation of a system in Human Resources to diversify applicant pools for employees and address barriers in recruitment and hiring processes for BIPOC individuals.
- Set a goal for increasing Black and Indigenous faculty representation and commit to funding the positions once we have the systems in place to support the hiring processes and targets are established.
- Include the University’s policy on equity in the boilerplate of every syllabus, containing a code of conduct and steps which will be taken if that code is violated.
- Develop a non-credit anti-racism module and make it available to all students.
- Commit funds to explore the possibility of establishing a Transitional Year Program for BIPOC high school students.
- Immediately become a member of the National Centre for Faculty Development and Diversity, an independent centre providing tools, mentoring and support for faculty members, postdocs and graduate students.
“These actions will help us to accelerate our previous efforts to tackle racism,” said Hamdullahpur. “I hope that they also demonstrate our sincere commitment to listening to and learning from our community.”
Fall 2020 Convocation will be delivered virtually
In-person convocation ceremonies will not take place on campus in October.
"As the University of Waterloo continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the well-being of our students, their families and our campus community is our top priority," wrote President Feridun Hamdullahpur in a memo circulated to employees yesterday. "The decision to not host in-person convocation ceremonies was a very difficult one to make. Each spring and fall, we see many faculty, staff and students volunteer — bringing our whole community together to celebrate our students’ academic achievements."
"Thank you to everyone who celebrated our graduates with social posts, lawn signs and personal accolades. It’s actions like these that showcase our Waterloo community, here and around the world. In a similar fashion, we ask you to celebrate with our fall graduates this October."
President Hamdullahpur also sent a memo to the more than 1,300 students set to graduate in October. "Convocation is the culmination of years of your hard work, passion and commitment," the president wrote. "Our decision to forgo in-person convocation ceremonies was a difficult one to make, but we made it with your health and safety top of mind."
The University is moving ahead with plans to host a virtual convocation celebration in October.
Personalized convocation emails will be sent to graduating students on October 23 and 24. These convocation emails will include messages from the President and from the valedictorians from each faculty. In addition, live virtual celebrations are being organized that will take place on Saturday, October 24 as follows:
- 9:30 a.m. ET — Mathematics
- 11:00 a.m. ET — Arts
- 12:30 p.m. ET — Environment
- 2:00 p.m. ET — Engineering
- 3:30 p.m. ET — Applied Health Sciences
- 5:00 p.m. ET — Science
Fall 2020 PhD graduands, across all faculties, will also be invited to attend a live virtual celebration on Friday, October 23 from 12 to 1 p.m. ET.
"We know that students and their families may wish to celebrate this milestone in person," President Hamdullahpur writes. "Students will have the option to attend a ceremony in person at another time. While we know that this may not be an option for some students, we want to make sure that option is available so students that are able may come back to campus and celebrate their accomplishments."
"The past five months have shown how resilient and understanding our community is in the face of unprecedented times that are impacting each of us. Thank you to everyone for working together to ensure the best academic experience for our students."
Waterloo employees can join the UWaterloo community on social to celebrate October's graduates by using the hashtag #UWaterlooGrad.
Waterloo sign at south campus on the move
As part of the ongoing Wayfinding update at the University, the Waterloo sign at the University Avenue entrance to campus will be moved and replaced by a new installation.
The process to consult, design and build the University’s wayfinding system started in 2017. As part of the integrated system, a large three-piece glass and aluminum sign will soon be constructed at the University Avenue entrance.
"Designed for long-life as well as aesthetics, the new sign will provide visitors with their first exposure to the visual language required for navigation," writes Tony Frost, associate vice-president, marketing and strategic initiatives in a memo circulated to employees earlier today. "Along with the new installation, the iconic Waterloo sign at the University Avenue entrance will be moved to a safe, centrally-located space near the Arts Quad, Dana Porter Library and Grad House this Fall."
The original Waterloo sign was the winning entry in the 2011 Innovate, Integrate, Implement contest and was developed by a team of Engineering and Environment students. The idea behind the design was to create a grand concourse at the busy intersection and the sign was installed in the fall of 2012.
"Over the years it has become a favourite photo backdrop for students and visitors. Unfortunately, its location so close to traffic has raised safety concerns as it requires photographers to stand in the road, putting them at risk of being struck by bikes, cars, trucks and buses," Frost writes. "Early in the Wayfinding project, we communicated that we would like to move the sign to a safer, highly visible location. We also surveyed the campus community for feedback on a safe and convenient space for a large logo sign that could be used for photos/selfies be best located."
The question elicited 457 responses from students, staff, alumni, and faculty which broke down as follows:
- Arts Quad/Dana Porter/Grad House - 125
- SLC/new PAC area for use at Convocation - 93
- Visitor Centre area/Between SCH and TC - 83
- SLC Courtyard/ BMH Green - 45
- Rock Garden/QNC - 26
- DC Green - 10
The Waterloo sign will be removed this month, taken for refurbishment and reinstalled later this fall. The University will share further updates regarding the unveiling at the new location.