Faculty of Health Sciences Anti-Racism Task Force
"Building a better Western for now, and for the future."
A Recognition. A Committment. A Call to Action.
The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) Anti-Racism Task Force began to take shape in June 2020 with an open letter to the FHS community from Jayne Garland, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. The letter recognized that FHS must do more to help end racial injustice and bring about meaningful social change. It also served as a call to action for members of the FHS community to join in the effort to make Western a safer and more inclusive place to work and study. The full letter can be read below.
Dear FHS Community Members,
In October 2019, a series of racist online attacks were directed at a Western student after she shared her experiences of anti-Black racism on campus. After meeting with this young woman, and consulting with student, faculty and staff groups, President Alan Shepard struck the Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG), which undertook the difficult work of documenting racism on campus beginning in January 2020.
The ARWG was tasked with developing a better understanding of “Western’s campus climate – particularly from the perspective of ethnocultural and racialized groups” – and with making “recommendations that aim to make Western a safer, more respectful and more equitable environment in which to study, research, work and live”. In May 2020 the ARWG submitted its final report to the President, which included a series of 24 recommendations that will help us, in the words of President Shepard, “build a better Western for now, and for the future”.
As Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), I accept this report as a call to action. I recognize that we must do more to help end racial injustice and bring about meaningful social change on our campus and in our communities. Racism of any kind has no place at Western. I join President Shepard in committing to taking concrete steps toward building a better future and to ensuring the Faculty of Health Sciences plays an active role in fighting against racism and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.
As the first step on this path, I am announcing the creation of the FHS Anti-Racism Task Force. I will ask this task force to use the ARWG Final Report as a guide to identify and address how anti-racism impacts FHS in areas such as curriculum development, hiring practices and training. The important work of this group will help in the development of a blueprint for how FHS can work as part of the Western community to address the recommendations outlined in the ARWG Final Report.
Earlier this week, I invited Associate Professor Treena Orchard (School of Health Studies) to serve in an advisory capacity in developing the FHS Anti-Racism Task Force. In accepting the role, Professor Orchard stressed the importance of adopting a collaborative approach that includes anti-oppression and trauma-informed frameworks. This is essential to helping ensure we do not reproduce the inequities we are aiming to address. It is critical that the leadership of this task force reflects the people and groups who experience erasure, violence and other forms of racism within our institution. In the coming days and weeks, she will reach out to Black and other racialized on-campus groups and local communities to begin building a joint leadership team.
As a historian and anthropologist, Professor Orchard’s ethnographic research examines sexuality, gender and the politics of health among marginalized populations, and utilizes research approaches that involve long-term immersion in, and on-going collaboration with, the communities she works with. I thank her for taking on the responsibility of helping support this important initiative and have let her know that the task force will have the full support of the Faculty of Health Sciences.
As the task force takes shape and their work begins, members will share regular email updates with the FHS community. Those updates also will be posted to www.uwo.ca/fhs/anti-racism. In addition, an email address has been set up – firstname.lastname@example.org – so members of the FHS community can contact the task force directly.
This is important work. It may be the most important work we are ever part of, and it is imperative that we all take part in this critical initiative to make Western a safer and more inclusive place to work and study.
Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences
Task Force Information
- A Collective Vision for Change:
December 7, 2020
The Faculty of Health Sciences Anti-Racism Task Force (FHS-ARTF) is a student-facing initiative designed to dismantle whiteness and centre anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism strategies as well as build intellectual empathy as a collective. Building intellectual empathy as a collective and responding to racism in meaningful ways are additional aims. The principles inherent to intersectionality, critical race, and post-colonial theory inform our work. We are committed to creating trauma-informed, action-oriented initiatives that cultivate safe, inclusive spaces for students and faculty to share their voices and co-create opportunities for socio-political change. Designing relevant evaluation tools to determine the impact of these social justice initiatives on curriculum, policies, and training will be determined as our task force activities unfold and as larger anti-racism strategy at Western unfolds.
Terms of Reference
This Task Force emerged in the wake of the President’s Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) Report released in June 2020 and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Our students come from a multitude of socio-economic, cultural, and racial backgrounds, yet our faculty and staff are predominantly white and few of us address these topics in meaningful ways in the classroom. We all have important roles to play in helping make Western a safer, proactive space to learn and grow. We cannot promote Western as a dynamic place of innovation unless we follow through on these critical issues at the structural level.
This Task Force is designed to address racism and other forms of systematic oppression within the Faculty of Health Sciences. We acknowledge that the institutional racism and marginalization on our campus impacts the social and educational experiences of students, faculty, and staff. Historical settler colonialism provided the foundations for academic institutions that centered whiteness and white normativity. Foundational to these were Slavery and the violent genocide of Indigenous people that created systems of oppression which are still evident today in police brutality toward Black people and violent attacks on Treaty lands.
In recognition of the hierarchies of oppression, we will use frameworks to dismantle whiteness that center anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism strategies and build intellectual empathy as a collective. This targeted focus helps ensure that we do not replicate the more generalized antiracism work being conducted at Western and is not meant to exclude or assign a lower value to the experiences of other communities. Given the interconnected nature of systemic and everyday oppression, the insights of additional communities will likely surface as our efforts unfold.