President's Forum takes place today
Today's President’s forum will highlight the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce final report and its 88 recommendations to address racism at the University.
Key participants include Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor, Jim Rush, Vice-President, Academic & Provost, and Charmaine Dean, Vice-President, Research and International and PART Executive Designate.
There will be a panel discussion featuring:
- Charmaine Dean;
- Jean Becker, Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Relations and PART taskforce/implementation team member);
- Lili Liu, Dean, Faculty of Health and PART Working Group co-chair;
- Colleen Phillips-Davis, PART Working Group co-chair; and
- Angeline Ram, PART Working Group co-chair.
Get your questions answered during the live Q&A following the President's presentation. Submit your question during the live online Q&A that will take place after the panel discussion.
"I encourage you to join the forum to learn more about what we are doing to change the University to be a more inclusive, anti-racist place," says President Vivek Goel.
The president said that anti-racism is the shared responsibility of the entire community – not that of a specific leader or a campus unit. He calls on all faculty members, students and staff and the wider University community to work together to assist and support those accountable for PART’s recommendations, and to look for ways to implement anti-racism into their daily work.
Campus Housing initiative diverts more than 6 tons of waste after residence move-out
A message from Campus Housing.
What happens with the leftover belongings that students leave in residence after they move out?
Campus Housing is still trying to tackle this problem after the initial success of our Waste Diversion pilot project in 2020. As 5,200 students departed during our busiest move-out of the year (with many students moving out after living with us for eight months), we collected clothing, electronics, household items (kitchen supplies, bedding, etc.), non-perishable food items, and books from our UW Place communities and the Villages (Village 1, Mackenzie King Village and Ron Eydt Village).
With an initial goal of diverting 8,000 lbs from ending up in landfills, we are proud to announce that we surpassed our goal and collected 13,500 lbs. We collected:
- 4,770 lbs of clothing
- 1,858 lbs of non-perishable food items
- 4,274 lbs of household items
- 875 lbs of books
- 1,189 lbs of electronics
These belongings will be getting a second life through WUSA initiatives like the WUSA Food Support service, the 519 Community Collective, and other community partners.
Thank you to our Campus Housing Residence Hospitality Experience team for their hard work in sorting and weighing all the collected donations and our partners (past and present), including the Sustainability Office, WUSA, 519 Community Collective, Textbooks for Change, and The Working Centre.
We are looking forward to expanding this initiative in the coming years to help create a more sustainable residence experience.
Why people trust or distrust experts when it comes to critical issues
By Elizabeth Rogers. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.
These days, it doesn’t take much to set off a heated online debate. Anyone can publicly share their opinion, but not everyone is concerned with accuracy or acting in good faith. And when it comes to critical issues such as the pandemic and climate change, trusting the wrong people can have serious consequences.
“The varieties of expertise involved in understanding and responding to the pandemic has shown us assessing experts and their expertise is a difficult challenge,” says Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, a University of Waterloo professor of English and Canada Research Chair in Science, Health, and Technology Communication. Her research looks at how people perceive expertise.
“Figuring out who we should be listening to, and who to trust, has been further complicated by misinformation as well as bad faith appeals by bogus experts. Such appeals can have devastating, deadly consequences.”
Who do we trust as experts, and why?
Neither individuals nor organizations can be experts on everything, so we rely on others to help us make more informed decisions. It might be someone who has certain credentials or holds a certain position — a medical doctor or university professor, for instance.
But there’s much more to it than that, Mehlenbacher says. Her recent book, On Expertise, looks at how people perceive and position expertise — especially experts themselves.
How we understand expertise draws on many disciplines, including ethics, sociology, psychology and education, as well as Mehlenbacher’s field: rhetoric. She found that when experts talk about expertise, problem solving skills and how we relate to one another are key. “How should we discern there is indeed a problem, deliberate upon it, and do so in a situated manner to take the appropriate action?”
The concept of “expert” is also evolving. For instance, Mehlenbacher’s research engages with citizen scientists — everyday people involved in science who often have important expertise to contribute. For example, Safecast is an international, citizen-led science group started after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011.
“Expertise comes in many varieties, not just scientific but also local knowledges, traditional knowledges and Indigenous Knowledges. Including different types of expertise is necessary for addressing complex issues.”
Why trust in experts is eroding
If you’ve spent any time online lately, you’ve likely seen the distrust and disdain levelled at experts. For Mehlenbacher, it’s not only the change in perception of experts that’s important — it’s what is driving this change.
First, it can be difficult to tell who is actually a credible expert. With the anonymity of online platforms, anyone can claim credentials on their profile and that makes people worried they will trust the wrong person or be fooled. These fake or bogus expert accounts can also create and spread disinformation and misinformation designed to undermine trust in experts, she says.
Even more troubling are attempts to discredit legitimate experts using bad faith critiques. In her research on climate change communications, Mehlenbacher has seen several tactics including claims that a researcher is biased because of career ambitions, or “purity tests” such as suggesting a climate scientist who uses commercial flights is a hypocrite.
“We also see sexism, racism, antisemitism, transphobia and other prejudices used to undermine an expert's credibility,” Mehlenbacher says. “For instance, the sexist ‘climate Barbie’ insult or attacks on women in public health leadership roles during the pandemic.”
There are also legitimate reasons for distrusting experts and institutions, for example, marginalized groups of people may have been harmed by them.
“Understanding the ways in which sexism, racism, antisemitism, ableism and other forms of prejudice have been enacted by experts and institutions is crucial,” Mehlenbacher says.
While we should all be approaching information with critical thinking, Mehlenbacher notes that there are some ways experts can build trust through how they communicate.
“Communicating knowledge and limitations in a transparent manner and demonstrating an understanding of the situations and audiences can be effective,” she says. “For instance, public health officials who explain the evolving pandemic situation, the limitations of what is currently known, and the reasons why they’re making certain decisions. But there are no easy answers.”
Another pressing question for Mehlenbacher is how to support women and other groups who disproportionally face online attacks for participating in the public sphere.
“We need to look at how different bad faith attacks operate and create ways to support the people affected,” she says. “Numerous researchers have lamented the contemporary erosion of good faith conversation on topics where expert knowledge is important. Now more than ever, exploring communication strategies that acknowledge and understand the complexities of expertise in its various forms is a goal worth pursuing.”
On Expertise: Cultivating Character, Goodwill, and Practical Wisdom is available from Penn State University Press.