As protests against anti-Black racism and racial violence take place in the United States, Canada, and countries around the world, the University of Toronto is expressing solidarity with the Black community and denouncing anti-Black racism and discrimination in all its forms.
“The University of Toronto shares the profound concerns that have arisen in response to recent events in the United States and here in Toronto,” said U of T President Meric Gertler in a statement.
“On behalf of the U of T community, let me repeat in the strongest terms possible our condemnation of anti-Black racism and discrimination.”
President Gertler added that the events of recent weeks have imposed an “enormous burden of pain, fear, and anger” on Black and racialized communities, which were already disproportionately experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We also acknowledge that these events are unfolding in a context in which Black people in Canada and around the world continue to be subjected to systemic injustices,” he said. “We join in demanding justice and working toward lasting change in our society.”
The statement of solidarity came amid a wave of massive street protests across the U.S. and beyond, precipitated by videos capturing recent incidents of violence against Black people, including the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
“Right now, many members of our Black community are living in anguish as they grapple with, and try to make sense of, another instance of the recurring attack on their humanity as a result of anti-Black racism, structural inequality, and attendant injustices,” said Wisdom Tettey, vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough.
“I am one of them. I share common elements of their lived experience. I feel the pain myself, and so I know what they are going through.”
Tettey urged members of the U of T community to remain resolute in their efforts to make U of T’s campuses and communities inclusive and welcoming for members of the Black community and all others.
“Our actions to eradicate racism in all its forms will be the best evidence of our commitment,” he said.
President Gertler thanked members of the university community who are already deeply engaged in such efforts including the Black Students’ Association, members of working groups focused on Black faculty and staff, and the staff-driven Connections and Conversations affinity group, which works with the university to foster learning, working and living environments that are racially equitable, diverse and inclusive.
“I share the intense frustration felt by members of our Black community, along with so many others across the University and well beyond,” President Gertler said. “It is especially important in such times that we reaffirm our institutional commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion; that we support each other and continue working together to confront and eradicate anti-Black racism and all forms of discrimination, both on our campuses and in the world around us.”
Kelly Hannah-Moffat, U of T’s vice-president of human resources and equity, also addressed the outrage spurred by the recent deaths of Black people in the U.S. and elsewhere, saying the university community recognizes the need for learning and action.
“Racism is not an issue for racialized communities to fight; it impacts everyone and it is our collective responsibility to purposefully work to create inclusive spaces that actively support our colleagues,” she said.
U of T’s Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office is holding a series of events this week and next for Black and racialized people, as well as their allies. The virtual gatherings include:
- Community Corner – Shared Healing. Shared Resilience, June 4 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
- Race & Healing: Black lives. Black Grief. Black Healing, June 5 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (Open only to persons who identify as being members of the Black community)
- Let’s Talk Allyship and Solidarity, June 9 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Diversity is not Allyship: How U of T Scarborough can show up for Black Communities, June 10 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- Talking about Racism at Home, June 11 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Virtual gathering for Black U of T Mississauga community members through the Black Table Talk Group, date TBD
Hannah-Moffat said U of T’s HR and Equity offices, as well as the university’s equity champions, are doing “essential work on exceptionally difficult issues,” creating further awareness of racism and fostering a community of support and inclusion that is central to the university’s mission.
“I encourage everyone to show your support for our students and colleagues who are feeling the weight of these tragedies,” she said. “For our Black faculty, staff, librarians, and students, know that we are here to support you.
“We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone at the University of Toronto.”
To that end, in recent years U of T has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at supporting Black students, faculty and staff, as well as other racialized communities:
- 29 new Black faculty members have been hired since 2016, including 14 hired in the last year alone, with the support of a Provostial diversity hiring fund
- 12 Black post-doctoral scholars have been named Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellows, a program that aims to increase opportunities for Black and Indigenous researchers
- The Black Student Application program – one of a number of initiatives supported by the Access Programs University Fund – has helped increase enrolment of Black students in the Faculty of Medicine, with 24 Black medical students admitted for fall 2020
- Other access and outreach programs have been implemented to increase enrolment of Black students, such as the Faculty of Law’s Black Student Application Process and Black Future Lawyers; the Faculty of Medicine’s Community of Support program; the Imani Academic Mentorship at U of T Scarborough; the Blueprint program at the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and the SEE U of T program, a collaboration with the Toronto District School Board
- Regular unconscious bias training and materials for faculty hiring and promotion committees are offered through a collaboration with the Toronto Initiative for Diversity & Excellence (TIDE)
“The difficulties of this past year highlight how far we have to go,” Hannah-Moffat said. “But together, we can strive for change.”
Students can speak to a trained crisis worker at any hour of the day.
- U of T My SSP for students: call 1-844-451-9700 or download the app at the Apple App Store or Google Play. Immediate counselling support is available in 35 languages and ongoing support in 146 languages.
Other 24-7 supports available to students include:
- Good 2 Talk Student Helpline 1-866-925-5454. Professional counselling, information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being.
- Gerstein Crisis Centre 416-929-5200
- Distress Centres of Greater Toronto 416-408-HELP (4357)
- The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at 250 College Street
- Anishnawbe Health Toronto Mental Health Crisis Line 416-360-0486
The following services are available to students on all three campuses:
- St. George campus: Health and Wellness Centre (416-978-8030), located at Koffler Student Services
- U of T Scarborough: Health & Wellness Centre 416-287-7065
- U of T Mississauga: Health & Counselling Centre 905-828-5255
Faculty and staff have access to 24-7 support through:
- The Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP), offered through Homewood Health, online and by phone at 1-800-663-1142