Dear faculty and staff,
I am writing to provide an update on what has been happening at King’s over the past few months on equity, diversity and inclusion, both in response to the calls of Black Lives Matter for racial justice in all institutions and in continuing development of our own internal plans and efforts.
On June 1, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I issued a statement of solidarity on behalf of King’s with our Black students, faculty, staff, graduates and Board members. The statement attracted considerable social media attention, including from Black students and graduates concerned with the racism they experienced at King’s.
On June 12, administration received a list of KSU demands “regarding anti-Black racism at the college”, to ensure Black students, faculty and staff are attracted to and supported at King’s. These were presented and discussed at the meeting of the Board of Governors on June 18. They are attached to this message [PDF], together with my written response to them. I think it is important for me to stress this point–that while we, like other universities, describe our challenges as a lack of equity, diversity and inclusion, many of our students describe the problem starkly as one of racism at King’s. If we are to make progress, we have to be willing acknowledge and address the problem they are demanding we address.
On June 15, students and graduates of the School of Journalism presented the School and the University, as well as schools of journalism at Ryerson and Carleton, with six calls to action directed to achieving “more inclusive, diverse representation and programming from journalism schools in Canada”, particularly for BIPOC students and faculty members. You can read the response of the School of Journalism at https://kingsjournalism.com/open-letter-to-journalism-students-alumni/.
On July 3, I asked for the advice of the Equity Committee on a number of questions arising from our Scholarly Inquiry on King’s and Slavery. I asked for the committee’s advice on how we should respond to the Inquiry’s findings in ways that address equity, diversity and inclusion at King’s now and in the future. I also asked for advice on these more specific questions, among others: how to expand awareness of the Inquiry and its findings; the honouring at King’s of historical figures who were involved in, benefited from or supported slavery; memorializing the history documented in the Inquiry; and how the College should approach the question of reparations in its discussions with the African Nova Scotia community and beyond that community.
I have asked the Equity Committee for advice on the participation of King’s and King’s students in the 2021 conference of the Universities Studying Slavery that we are co-hosting with Dalhousie in October of 2021. Preparations for this conference were put on hold in the early months of the pandemic but now progress is starting to be made, including with commitments of participation in the conference’s organization from leaders of the African Nova Scotia community.
I have completed the Review of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion I was mandated to write by the Board in 2019, with contributions on initiatives in each of our academic program from program directors–for which I am very grateful. In writing the Review, I received input from our Equity Officer, Tanisi Pooran. I have shared it in draft with administrative colleagues and academic program directors. I have recently sent it to the Equity Committee for its review, reaction and input. I will then be sharing it with everyone, including the Board at its September meeting.
Meanwhile, as you may know, on Wednesday, August 19, the Haliburton Society voted to change its name to the UKing’s Literary Society to disassociate the society from the racism and misogyny in Haliburton’s writings.
In all of this work, I deeply appreciate what Jordan Roberts and Tanisi Pooran are adding to our community. The support and guidance they provide to our students and to all of us is of highest importance. Personally, I am grateful for all they are teaching me.
I was appointed with the explicit mandate to enable the College to become more equitable, more diverse and more inclusive. The review I have written argues we are collectively working towards these objectives but that we are not making satisfactory progress and not addressing key barriers to, and enablers of EDI. I am determined to do what I can to help us change this.
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of King’s College