Excluding Black medical students hurts the entire university

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A university has a duty to ensure it doesn’t repeat its past mistakes—especially when it makes people of colour feel unwelcome. 
 
In September, Queen’s Senate motioned to rescind a 1918 ban barring Black students from entering Queen’s medical school. While the policy hasn’t been enforced since 1965, it’s never been formally rejected. 
 
If a school policy hasn’t been formally struck down, it signifies continued discrimination on campus.
 
While social norms may have been different when the ban was in place, it’s up to the University to make our past discrimination transparent and take constructive steps to ensure it never happens again.
 
Queen’s is already known for its relatively homogenous student body, often making students of colour feel unwelcome or wary. The University’s longstanding institutional bias against marginalized people only amplifies that disconnect. 
 
Queen’s didn’t just damage educational opportunities for students of colour through its 1918 colour bar; it missed out on Black medical students’ contributions to both science and the civil rights movement. We should remember that when we exclude vital groups of our population, we don’t just hurt them—we also hurt ourselves. 
 
In 1918, the post-war University  and its services—including The Queen’s Journal— operated in a different atmosphere, tainted by fear of difference—and they weren’t the only institutions to do so. Cases of racial discrimination are numerous, like the government’s internment of Japanese-Canadians.
 
However, precedence is no excuse. Queen’s must be careful not to hide or trivialize its past racism out of shame. It needs to accept its actions, however wrong, to create a culture of transparency and change. 
 
Our understanding of our own history is full of biases and prejudices. There’s critical value in looking back to understand how our institutional wrongs have come to be so we don’t repeat them again. 
 
While symbolic formalities such as the Senate’s action to rescind the policy are critical, they’re not where our efforts should stop. 
 
It’s important to remember that, while the Senate has acknowledged its historical wrongs, it’s not the primary change-maker on campus. Students, staff, and faculty are. Many student organizations on campus, from the Queen’s Committee Against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (CARED) to Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS), promote campus equity daily. 
 
If our University’s administration wishes to promote positive change on campus, it needs to be more dynamic in its work. Queen’s would benefit from a task force to investigate and acknowledge its past discrimination and to audit its current policies. 
 
We need to figure out how the school’s attitudes toward its demographics were shaped to avoid complacency and establish a more realistic University narrative. It’s the school’s responsibility to make the students who pay thousands in tuition feel safe on campus. 
 
—Journal Editorial Board
 

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