Equity. Diversity. Inclusivity. These are words we hear all the time, but what do they look like in action? What is Waterloo doing to achieve them?
One of the things I love most about my degree is the electives I get to choose from and the diverse range of topics I’ve been able to study. In my first semester of university, I stumbled upon one class that I’ll never forget: How to Challenge Anti-Black Racism.
As a biracial student, it was incredibly refreshing to learn that Waterloo offered courses like this. When I first started the class, I didn’t expect to see such a diverse group of people, and it was comforting to know that the issues marginalized groups face aren’t just recognized by one community, but by everyone. I felt accepted and recognized that the university I was attending was doing its best to create an equitable environment; it was advocating awareness and promoting education on such a fundamental topic – one that isn’t talked about enough.
Learning how to challenge anti-Black racism isn’t the only academic opportunity that Waterloo provides to drive positive change. Black Studies and Fundamentals of Anti-Racist Communication are offered as diplomas to students from all faculties, and to non-degree students as well. The Black Studies Implementation team is committed to educating students, faculty, and the broader community, advocating for social justice through these informative courses. Waterloo also offers an Indigenous Studies minor, eight courses that study and highlight Indigenous cultures and perspectives.
I took 'How to Challenge Anti-Black Racism' and enjoyed it very much. It’s something I would recommend to others amongst the courses offered for the new diplomas. I believe it will allow for open and insightful conversation between students and the instructor to take place.
More learning opportunities are offered through the Equity Office, where anti-racism resources and support for equity concerns, as well as workshops and training are offered for people to increase their allyship. Inside or outside of the classroom, there are lots of ways to be a part of the diverse and inclusive community at Waterloo.
President's Anti-Racism Taskforce
Let’s say you’ve run out of electives or taking an extra course isn’t your style, but you still want to be involved in the University’s initiatives – Waterloo has it all! Beyond the academic environment, there are lots of committees that work towards ending systemic racism at Waterloo that offer educational content. The President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART) is one of these groups, and their ongoing mission involves many anti-racist actions that strive to perpetuate equality amongst the BIPOC community. Some of these engaging opportunities include an anti-racism book club, which features a list of books that touch on a number of important topics, one of which was in the Anti-Racism course I took and a highly recommended read. For my non-readers, you’re in luck, because there’s also a monthly anti-racism newsletter that you can sign up for!
Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity, and Equality
At Waterloo, faculty and students are dedicated to creating supportive spaces for the BIPOC community. Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity, and Equality (RAISE) is a student-based service that works towards confronting racism and xenophobia across campus. Established through the hard work of Black women and Non-Binary folk, their main focuses are education and advocacy, peer support, and community building, and you can visit them on Facebook or Instagram to stay updated on their actions. Fiqir Worku, one of the alumni of Waterloo responsible for the implementation of RAISE, explains that her vision was to “make the Waterloo experience even a little bit better for racialized students, so they didn’t have the same experience as me”. Through anti-racism initiatives and social events, RAISE aims to turn that vision into a reality, promoting the shared goals of equity and inclusivity across Waterloo.
I hoped that RAISE would be the start of a long list of things Waterloo needed to improve upon when it comes to incorporating principles of anti-racism campus-wide. I think that the existence of RAISE has sparked conversations with many Waterloo staff, and hope that will translate to lasting change.
Indigenous community on campus
The Office of Indigenous Relations provides guidance, support, and resources to the campus community, strengthening the central vision of reconciliation. Register for their events and workshops to gain a deeper understanding of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, and appreciation of their rich culture. Faculty at Waterloo are also advocating for change through the Indigenous Priorities Action Committee, working to improve the experiences of Indigenous students and staff. You can keep up to date and stay connected by signing up for the Indigenous connections newsletter!
Shatitsirótha'! The Waterloo Indigenous Student’s Centre (WISC) provides supports to Indigenous students, focusing on culture, academics, wellbeing, and social engagement. You can follow them on Facebook to stay in the loop on new and exciting initiatives! WISC also has an Indigenous Student Association, where students can reflect and interact with each other, as well as a Living Community for Indigenous First Year Students to give Indigenous students a unique space to develop positive connections.
A sense of community at Waterloo
Something that often gets brought up when talking about university is the sense of community that comes with being a student. The people you meet, the relationships you form, the belonging you feel. I’m only halfway through my degree, and the importance of connection and fellowship have been highlighted for me every step of the way. At Waterloo, it’s known that these are all dominant factors that contribute to a positive university experience. With the number of resources, support systems, groups and learning opportunities that advocate for equality and inclusivity, know one thing for certain – the priority to shape a unified, welcoming environment is ongoing and strong. I can see it in the constant student dedication that surrounds me, letting me know that as a marginalized student, I’m not alone. I can feel it in the efforts of my professors and the staff at Waterloo, who do their best to create safe and comforting spaces for everyone. Most of all, I can tell that ensuring an equitable and diverse future isn’t just a goal or a value; it’s a growing reality, one where everyone belongs.