University response to change.org petition on racism

Saturday, June 6, 2020

We have restored this statement to our website in an effort to ensure that all actions taken by the University of Waterloo are transparent and easily accessible.

The University of Waterloo made this statement without consulting Black faculty members and then we removed it from the archives on June 16 when we issued a new statement. We apologize unreservedly because we recognize that this statement, and its removal, are mistakes that did harm to Black faculty members who research and teach about blackness.


Over the past days, The University of Waterloo has spoken out against racism in all forms.  We have expressed that the University of Waterloo condemns and acts to eliminate racism on campus.

A recent change.org petition started by University of Waterloo students has highlighted a racist incident that took place at St. Jerome’s University in March of this year when a professor used the n-word in class.

The University acknowledges the ongoing trauma and violence faced by Black students on our campus and thank the impacted students and community members for speaking out. We also thank the students who started and signed this petition. We understand and acknowledge this is exhausting work that should not be required.

The University of Waterloo unequivocally believes that there is no place for the use of the n-word in class, on campus or in our community. We are disappointed that a member of St. Jerome’s University faculty used this language, and that students in the class felt their concerns were not respected.

University of Waterloo leadership will speak with the president of St. Jerome’s University - a university federated with the University of Waterloo – about further action that they can take to ensure that racist language is never used, and that every student, in every class, feels safe to express their concerns and respected when they do.

While University of Waterloo has significant work to do, it is important to note that St. Jerome’s University operates entirely independently from the University of Waterloo with respect to its hiring practices. This includes training, onboarding, termination, disciplinary action, etc.

As an institution, University of Waterloo is committed to creating a culture of respect, free of racism, across our campuses and affiliated and federated institutes. University of Waterloo does not have the authority to exercise any decisive action with respect to this specific racist act; however, we have provided opportunities for anti-racist workshops and are prepared to do more to ensure all faculty members understand the consequences of their actions.

No statement can make up for past harms. We offer these words as humble recognition of the fact the University of Waterloo can do better, and will do better.

We’d also like to share further actions being taken by the University of Waterloo to ensure that the voices and experiences of the Black campus community and people of color are amplified:

  • We will direct financial support to groups doing anti-racism work on our campus
  • We will work on a centralized process for reporting and addressing issues of racism and racial violence on our campus
  • We will embed anti-racism in our work on equitable recruitment and selection by advocating for the collection of disaggregated race-based data in our employment processes and by enhancing the content about anti-black racism in our mandatory equitable recruitment and selection training
  • We will create space for Black campus community members to come together for support, collective care and action. This effort will be facilitated by Dr. Christopher Taylor (lecturer), and Victoria Rodney (student) and will occur in June, 2020
  • We have implemented training to senior leaders on anti-racism and equity, led by Kike Ojo-Thompson from the Kojo Institute.
  • We will create online resources for those impacted by anti-black racism, and for allies seeking learning and action opportunities; and an invitation for community members to suggest additional resources
  • We will establish a virtual space for allies to come together to deepen understanding and create opportunities for action, we will launch this space in July, 2020
  • We will expand our anti-racism workshops from three a semester to monthly, beginning this term
  • We will embed goals related to anti-racism in the institutional equity plan and commit to accountability across the institution beginning Fall Term, 2020

The University of Waterloo remains committed to keeping this conversation going and to listening, learning and taking action to implement what we have learned.

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