ASUS Faculty Board Meeting discusses campus racism

In response to this week’s events, Arts and Science professors and administrators pass motion to address diversity at Queen's

On Nov. 25, the Arts and Science Faculty Board modified their regular business to pass a two-part motion in response to the week’s events on campus, and issues raised around race and racism.

Following the opening statements of the regularly-scheduled meeting — held in a lecture hall of the Health and Kinesiology Building — a request was put forth by Gender Studies Department Head and Kinesiology professor Samantha King to add an item of business to the agenda.

The request was a motion regarding potential systemic racism at Queen’s, in light of the week’s events, and what they as a faculty could do to mitigate it. Following the request, two statements were read for the Board.

The first letter, previously released online, was presented by ASUS President Darrean Baga and Vice-President Brian MacKay. It acknowledged that “many students are hurting right now,” and implored Queen’s to use this week as an opportunity to listen and engage in conversations about moving forward as a community.

Following the ASUS Executive’s letter, Gordon Smith, dean of arts and science, read his own report.

“Any racist event or activity that serves to degrade, mock, or marginalize is completely unacceptable and disturbing,” Smith stated. “The Faculty of Arts and Science and the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society believe that we have a collective responsibility to make efforts to address systemic racism and activities leading to an unwelcoming environment for our students, staff and faculty.”

Over the next few months, he told attendees, the ArtSci faculty will be carrying out a series of discussions on human rights, equity and diversity. “Through this process, we can build our awareness of the challenges we face in addressing systemic racism on campus and building a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all.”

In response to Dean Smith’s statements, Kinesiology professor Marie Louise Adams thanked him specifically for referring to the incident as racism.

 “That is the first time in my 20 years at Queen’s that I’ve heard somebody at that level say the word ‘racism’ to address these kinds of issues that came up at the party … to actually call it out as racism is super important.”

After these letters were read, the focus of the meeting shifted to other faculty matters, including the Curriculum Committee Omnibus Report and the recurring possibility of a Fall Reading Week — before returning again to the subject of recent events at the University and their implications for race and diversity.

At this point, King put forward a two-fold motion, which would see the Faculty Board endorsing the joint statement made by ASUS and Dean Smith, explicitly labelling the events as “racist”.

Secondly, the motion would see the Faculty Board recommend the ArtSci faculty as a whole take additional measures to address a “culture of whiteness,” and to allocate necessary budget and staff to implement the recommendations of the 2011 Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Equity Task Force.

These recommendations included the diversification of curriculum and the implementation of a required course on themes of social justice or social difference.

Following the reading of this motion, King delivered a personal speech about coming to Queen’s in 2003, multiple accounts of racism she has been witness to, and what she regarded as the consequences of being “trapped in a giant vortex of ritual laments.”

“A horrific incident happens, highlighting the less physical systemic racism that organizes everyday life at our institution, a flurry of petitions, letters and statements are issued, and nothing happens,” she said.

“Suffice to say that people’s patience is not running thin, it has run dry. It is time to act and put our money where our mouths are.”

The discussion was then opened to any spectators for commentary or questions. Attendees were particularly concerned with the prospect of backlash towards a mandatory course.

Multiple amendments to the original wording of the motions were put forward. One motion that prompted discussion was  by physics professor Jordan Morelli to replace the word ‘whiteness’ with ‘racism’ stating  that he didn’t believe “white people had a dominion over racism.” However, this motion didn’t pass.

In the end, with minor adjustments made, the motions passed with only a handful of abstentions.

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