President strikes group to target racism on campus

In the wake of recent incidents over the past week, Western’s President is launching a working group to better understand and target issues of racism on campus.

“Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to the concerns of some members of Western’s ethnocultural student organizations. They shared their experiences of dealing with racism on campus and in the broader community,” said President Alan Shepard.

Last night at the University Students’ Council (USC) meeting, councilors unanimously approved a motion calling upon Western “to create an anti-racism and anti-oppression strategy in consultation with the USC, the USC’s Ethnocultural Support Services, and student members of racialized groups on campus.”

“Resistance against racism and racist language is critical to move society and our campus community forward,” said Shepard.

The President is establishing a working group to better understand the issues and concerns we face as a campus community and to inform a strategy to move forward in our classrooms, in our research facilities, in our residences, on our sports fields, indeed, within all aspect of our university fabric.

The working group will focus on the experience of Western community members, particularly from racialized groups, with an aim to provide educational programs and enact systemic change against racism and oppression.

Last week, Western lecturer Andrew Wenaus used the “N” word while teaching a pop culture course.

“The use of that term was unacceptable. This has been addressed with him by the university and he has apologized and taken action to better prepare himself for teaching sensitive material in the future,” said Shepard.

Fourth-year student Chizoba Oriuwa posted on social media about her experiences of racism at Western, her experience of being in the class and the effects this racist language had on her and her classmates. Her email address was later shared in a non-Western online forum, which led to her receiving hateful and racist emails from anonymous email accounts.

This happened in the early hours of the morning – Western reached out to her immediately, taking steps to ensure she was supported and safe.

“The harassment and bullying Chizoba has faced since voicing her concerns is completely unacceptable. And the cowardly emails she has received from anonymous email accounts are deplorable,” said Shepard.

In the weeks ahead, Western will provide further details in terms of the mandate of the working group and its membership which will include student leaders from USC and SOGS, faculty and staff members, Student Experience and Equity and Human Rights Services.

The working group will report directly to the president.

“There is nothing more important to me as President of Western than providing a safe and respectful environment for all members of the campus community to learn and work,” said Shepard.

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Western has several services in place for any students who have concerns or are in need of support:

Student Support and Case Management. Comprehensive care and coordination of university-wide resources for support.  8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Health and Wellness (formerly Psychological Services). Walk-in crisis counselling and bookable mental health counselling appointments. (519) 661-3030. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday in University Community Centre (UCC) 11.

USC Peer Support Centre. Drop-in non-judgmental, confidential, peer-to-peer support. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday in UCC 256. A support group for black students led by a black facilitator will take place 4-6 p.m. Nov. 1.

Graduate Peer Support. Drop-in non-judgment, confidential peer-to-peer support. 5-7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday in Western Interdisciplinary Research Building (WIRB) 1110.

Equity and Human Rights Services. Information and advice on Western’s discrimination and harassment policies. (519) 661-3334. 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Western Foot Patrol. Free walk-home service for students on campus. (519) 661-3650. 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday. Foot Patrol will be closed for Reading Week, Nov. 1-10.

Western Campus Police. All campus emergencies and liaison with London Police Services. 911 / (519) 661-3300. Staffed 24/7.

Good2Talk. Free confidential mental health helpline. (866) 925-5454. Staffed 24/7.