In the spring and fall of 2020 respectively, McGill released updated versions of their Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Strategic Plan (2020-2025) and their Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism (ABR) (2020-2025). Reports assessing the plans’ first years in action were presented to McGill’s Board of Governors on Sept. 7 by Angela Campbell, professor in the Faculty of Law and associate provost (Equity and Academic Policies), and Terri Givens, professor in the department of Political Science and provost’s academic lead and advisor (Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism). The Senate will be discussing the reports at their next meeting on Oct. 20.
The Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism aims to confront systemic racism at McGill by tracking five main pillars: Student experiences, community outreach, design of physical space, research, and workforce makeup. The plan also seeks to acknowledge and act upon the university’s connection to the transatlantic slave trade. The EDI Strategic Plan examines inequities according to the same five aforementioned elements
Campbell stated The McGill Tribune in a student media round table that these plans signal McGill’s commitment to implementing change.
“The Student Services team led and facilitated [the creation] of spaces last year called ‘Being Black at McGill’ and that has been really helpful to developing a specific plan within Student Services to serve the needs of Black students at the university,” Campbell said. “[The creation of these spaces] really focussed on not just having a plan, but serious commitment to implementation.”
Campbell also highlighted the role of student organizations in the rollout of the Anti-Black Racism and EDI plans.
“Throughout the last year and going on this year, we have been meeting every month with the [McGill African Students Society (MASS)] and the [Black Students’ Network (BSN)] to make sure that we get their feedback,” Campbell said. “It is one thing to have a plan, but it is another thing to hear on the ground how [the plan] is impacting, or not, the lives and the lived experiences of our students.”
The Post-Graduate Students’ Society BIPOC Grad Network coordinator, Vivian Miyata, acknowledged the importance of communicating with campus organizations, but pointed out that not all BIPOC students are represented in these organizations.
“It is important to create consistent outreach to members of the Black community at McGill who aren’t in BSN or other associations, to make sure that any Black student who wants their voice heard has the opportunity to do so,” Miyala wrote in an email to the Tribune.
A central part of both the EDI Strategic Plan and the Anti-Black Racism Plan is the implementation of an online module—based on the same structure as the It Takes All of Us—that will focus on educating the McGill community about systemic racism. The module is still in development, but once complete, will be mandatory for students, staff, and faculty. Campbell and Givens mentioned that the module will be important, but that it is only a small part of the work needed to address systemic racism.
“This is such difficult, deep work, and it takes time,” Givens said. “We are trying to change culture in terms of developing a culture that is welcoming to Black students, to Black faculty, and so you have to take a broad approach to make sure that you are approaching [systemic racism] from different levels and different perspectives.”
Miyata believes that online modular learning is a step in the right direction, but that the university must also commit to holding those who engage in racist and discriminatory behaviour accountable.
“I believe that the sexual violence learning program and anti-racism modules that will be similar to [It Takes All of Us] are important, but ineffective unless there are real consequences for students who exhibit behaviour that opposes the teachings in them,” Miyata wrote.