Dear members of the UBC graduate and postdoctoral community:
As anti-Black racism protests and resistance movements have taken hold across the world in recent months, we in Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS) have been reflecting deeply on the historical and pervasive nature of this racism - globally, in Canada and here at UBC. From violent acts, to systemic injustice, stereotyping, and subtler insults and microaggressions, the manifestions of anti-Black racism continue to affect the lives of our citizenry and our university community.
We wholeheartedly affirm President Ono’s messages on addressing the systemic racism at UBC that impacts Black and other racialized and Indigenous community members, and dedicate ourselves to the institutional commitment to inclusion and to the acceleration and intensification of efforts to build a more just and generous campus community.
As we reflect on what this means and could mean for members of the UBC graduate and postdoctoral community, and for higher education more broadly, we have been asking:
- What would it look like to collectively renew and enhance our commitment to principles and sustained actions toward equity, diversity, and inclusion in our own community?
- How might graduate and postdoctoral research and education more fully promote understanding, respect, and empathy among all people and communities, while simultaneously addressing past and present injustice and privilege?
- How might we engage our Black, racialized and Indigenous students, postdocs, faculty, and staff, and at the same time not over rely on their time and energy to elicit change? How might we all listen, learn, unlearn, act, and speak up?
As starting points, we commit to the following:
Education and development: Within the Office of the Dean, G+PS, we commit to ongoing education on the subject of racism, and to holding ourselves and our colleagues accountable as we challenge, learn, and unlearn behaviours and practices. As part of these efforts, we will participate in formal educational programming to raise awareness and understanding of these issues; to help ensure that all our interactions with students, postdocs, faculty, university staff, and each other are inclusive and free from bias and stereotyping; and to help ensure that our decisions and actions are consistently equitable and culturally responsive.
Admissions: The first goal in the 2019-24 G+PS Strategic Plan is ‘Admission of the most promising graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, with diversity represented in all its dimensions’. Within this broad goal is a commitment to engage the graduate community in reflection and improvement on (our decentralized) admissions processes, which includes a revisitation of ‘how we define and assess promise’, how we can better target recruitment efforts, and how we can increase both consistency and equity in all graduate program administration. We commit to accelerate these actions, and in particular to include in all these activities a thoughtful and holistically equitable focus on issues of race and ethnicity.
Black, racialized and Indigenous student and postdoctoral voices: We commit to foregrounding and highlighting Black, racialized and Indigenous student and postdoctoral voices by creating spaces where they can share their thoughts, experience, work, and research. This might take the form of blogs or profiles on our website, venues for the display of creative work, as well as in-person events, such as fora and workshops. We also commit to actively listening to our Black, racialized and Indigenous students, postdocs, and faculty through ongoing engagement and dialogue in the form of focus groups and informal conversations around race and inclusion, building on existing initiatives, such as the expansion of SAGE (a Faculty of Education Indigenous graduate student support and community program).
Graduate and postdoctoral education culture and practices: The third area of our strategic plan reflects our mandate to ‘support and promote excellence in graduate programs and faculty.’ As part of these efforts, we re-commit to promoting and supporting actions and attitudes related to equity, diversity and inclusion in all graduate and postdoctoral educational environments and processes. Over the coming year, we will consult extensively to better understand where the greatest needs are, and which practices are best shared and promoted.
Graduate scholarship: As outlined in our strategic priorities pages, we reassert our commitment to promoting capacious forms and pathways of scholarly work and education, which seek and engage diverse ways of knowing, perspectives, and partners, and which may be oriented to action as well as to understanding. This holistic view of scholarship inherently considers the challenging issues of access, privilege, and voice across many disciplines, and as such is crucial to a more just and life-affirming world to which they are, will, and must be key contributors.
Please let us know if you think there is more that Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies can do, and/or whether you would like to be involved in these efforts. We want to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.