Statement on anti-Black racism and academic freedom

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

In recent weeks, the University of Waterloo has spoken out against racism in all forms. We have taken action by forming the President’s Anti-racism Taskforce to advance equity for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) on our campus.

On June 6, in response to a change.org petition on racism on our campus, we issued a statement in which we wanted to address the well-justified hurt and concerns of the petitioners. With regret, our statement did not live up to our own standards for promoting free inquiry. 

Several members in our community including the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo and our Senate have reminded us of the importance of our commitment to academic freedom. We have also been reminded of the important role that Black scholars and students play in researching and advancing anti-racism and anti-Black racism. 

Our intent was never to hinder Black, racialized or other faculty members who are advancing anti-racism and anti-Black racism work. These scholars are doing critical work to help improve our world and we strongly value their contribution to society. We recognize the confusion our statement caused and replace it with this statement. 

As an institution, the University of Waterloo is committed to creating a culture of respect across our campuses and affiliated and federated institutes. We also unequivocally support the principles of academic freedom. These principles are the foundation of our scholarly existence and shall never be eroded.

We remain committed to the enduring principles of academic freedom even as we navigate the anti-racism efforts that require our support. We believe that we can collectively strike a balance between the rights afforded with academic freedom and the expectations of our whole learning community for safer learning environments, as protected by our Memorandum of Agreement, Policy 33 and Policy 71.

We continue to believe that it is possible to engage our community in anti-racism conversations through open, respectful, factual dialogue. As part of the President’s Anti-racism Taskforce, we will work with Black, Indigenous and People of Color to develop a better understanding around these issues leading to changes starting right here.

We will continue to acknowledge the ongoing trauma and violence faced by BIPOC students and employees on our campus and thank the impacted students and community members for speaking out.

Recent world events have reminded us that the expectations of what constitutes safer learning environments are evolving and that we need to evolve with them. We also know that there may be times when our core values appear to be in conflict. When faced with these challenges, our community will advance our understanding of society and our world by working closely together in pursuit of knowledge in a way only universities can.

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