Updates from Dr. Blye Frank, Dean and Professor, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
June 5, 2020
Today’s bulletin shifts in focus from the pandemic response to recent events of racism and anti-Blackness in both the United States and Canada, re-igniting the Black Lives Matter movement and impacting the lives and work of many of us. The violence and abuse of power that resulted in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Regis Korchinsky-Paquet, and countless other Black individuals have forced many us to examine our values, positionalities, and commitments. As stated in my message earlier this week, we in the Faculty of Education denounce racism in all of its forms, including—critically at this moment—racism against Black communities.
This is where our position as a site of education brings a responsibility to address these inequities, an opportunity to educate ourselves and others, and a commitment to engage in anti-racist work in an active and ongoing way. To this end, I would like to thank Faculty colleagues who have spoken out to public media, posted their support on social media, and consistently made anti-racism, anti-oppression and decolonization the focus of their scholarship and teaching.
As part of a major academic institution that has been operating on occupied Indigenous territories for over a century, it is essential that we understand the roles we may play in perpetuating systemic and structural racism. A first step for many—and especially for those of us who are white—is to understand not only the histories of oppression but also to understand how these systems are upheld and continue to oppress marginalized communities. This all too often results in structures that perpetuate violence, trauma, and a lack of representation in our workplaces, curricula, and in the Academy at large.
While our Faculty and the University are embarking on work to both understand and dismantle racist systems of oppression, we must remain aware that the work in ongoing and there is much more to be done. Here, I will highlight our Strategic Plan, the Task Force on Race, Indigeneity, and Social Justice, President Ono’s message in support of Black students, staff, and faculty through the Inclusion Action Plan, and changes to Canada’s SSHRC eligibility requirements to prioritize underrepresented groups. As noted, there is more work to be done, collectively and individually.
To support these efforts and to stimulate ongoing conversation, education, and action, I remind you that the responsibility of re-educating yourself is yours alone. We cannot place this labour on our Black, Indigenous and colleagues of colour. To assist with this work, the Faculty is creating a list of resources that you can use to educate yourself and those close to you—friends, family, students, colleagues, and others. If you wish to contribute a resource, such as a reading, event, podcast or other item that might expand anti-racism learning opportunities for students, staff or faculty, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, please note that there is support for students, faculty and staff who experience grief or stress resulting from racism or violence:
- Students: Counselling Services (UBC-V) or Counselling & Mental Health (UBC-O)
- Faculty and staff: Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP)
If you have faced discrimination of any kind while working or studying at UBC, please contact the Human Rights Services team at https://equity.ubc.ca.
And, as always, please do not hesitate to reach out to each other or to me if you have questions or concerns.
June 1, 2020
Recent events involving racism are troubling, and I know a number of you are feeling upset and discouraged as yet another act of violence reminds you that racism is always near, disrupting our comfortable notions of who we are as a society. Most protests are occurring out of legitimate frustration and anger, based on decades of white supremacy and systemic oppression, paralleling what many Asian, Indigenous and racialized Canadians also experience on a regular basis.
To achieve our goal of living and working inclusively, we must analyze our own biases regarding difference and work together to alter or eliminate structures and systems that perpetuate inequities. Just as we are still learning with the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is not only a question of changing national and local policies, it is about putting those into practice on a day-to-day, person-by-person basis.
Holding people down, which is what George Floyd’s death epitomizes, is something that happens when majorities continue to let it happen. I hope that, as a Faculty and a community, we can redouble our efforts to address individual and institutional racism, particularly at this junction of old and new ways of being.