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 Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (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.”

In a recent letter to senior leaders at Waterloo, Hamdullahpur said that University leaders will continue to meet with and listen to BIPOC individuals on campus “to establish the right actions that will allow us to challenge the systemic and structural barriers that Black, Indigenous and People of Colour face at Waterloo.” The President has asked Charmaine Dean, vice-president, research and international at Waterloo, to lead the outreach and engagement.

“We have been talking and will continue to talk with BIPOC individuals on our campuses to hear their thoughts and engage with their experiences – to facilitate the construction of a powerful community approach that can advise on the right steps,” said Dean. “All of us at Waterloo must be committed to creating long-term change – one that our students, faculty and staff have input and are represented in the actions that we, as a community, will take.”

The commitments to address racism build on Waterloo’s new Strategic Plan commitments to strengthen sustainable and diverse communities.

“When we developed our strategic plan last year, we made a conscious effort to develop goals that would help us advance a sense of belonging for everyone who comes to Waterloo to live, study and work,” said James Rush, vice-president, academic and provost. “The commitments that leaders are making now will help us broaden the impact of that plan to everyone in our community.”

In June, Hamdullahpur announced the University’s intention to establish a taskforce to tackle anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism and other forms of racism. Throughout July, Waterloo’s leaders have met with Black, Indigenous and People of Colour to listen to their lived experiences and understand how the University can move ahead with anti-racism work.

“I recognise that there is a tremendous amount of emotional labour that goes into this kind of work, and I am truly grateful for the advice that individuals have contributed and will continue to provide to us through this process,” said Hamdullahpur. “It is so important to continue this process of engagement so that we can build new systems and structures that accelerate us towards more equitable experiences for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour at Waterloo.”