Statement on the Faculty of Education’s commitment to racial justice

We have a responsibility to advance a teaching, learning and research environment free from racism, colonialism, discrimination and inequity

Jennifer Tupper - 03 June 2020

I write from my own place of privilege as a white-settler woman and your Dean. I have been deeply troubled by increasing racialized violence perpetrated against Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada, the U.S. and other countries around the world. While racism and colonialism have long intersected to shape the fabric of our society, the current crises we find ourselves in have amplified these structural forces of oppression. The recent murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer is but one example amongst many others I could draw from – Colten Boushie, Jason Collins, Eishia Hudson, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, Olando Brown, Trayvon Martin, Amber Redman, Ahmaud Arbery, Tina Fontaine, Tony McDade, Abigail Andrews, Breonna Taylor, Neil Stonechild, Pamela George…

As a Faculty of Education, we have made explicit our commitment to anti-racist and anti-colonial teaching and learning given the ongoing systems of racialized and colonial oppression that continue to permeate in our communities and our schools. The experiences of racism are very real for the many students, faculty and staff members who make up our University of Alberta. Within our Faculty, we have much work still to do to dismantle structural barriers and anti-Black racism. But we have a responsibility to do so by advancing a teaching, learning and research environment free from racism, colonialism, discrimination and inequity. This work requires that we recognize and be accountable for individual, institutional and systemic racism. We need to have these conversations as a community, and most importantly, we need to be leaders in advancing anti-racism and anti-colonialism in education.

Given that we are the largest undergraduate teacher education program in Canada and given the power of education and information studies to disrupt dominant ways of knowing, being and doing, we have great responsibility to advance racial justice. I am heartened by the vision of the Anti-Oppressive working group in our Program Renewal process, who have proposed a new and critical course for all of our undergraduate students. This course aims to prepare our pre-service teachers to better and more deeply understand and respond to the needs and experiences of diverse learners within a colonial and racialized system. We have opportunities as a Faculty to build on the work we have undertaken in Truth and Reconciliation education and to expand our resistance to anti-Black racism and colonialism. As your Dean, and as an anti-oppressive researcher and scholar, you have my commitment and continued support to advance what we have articulated in Education for the Public Good is core to the mission of the Faculty—“working towards a more just and equitable society.”

More specifically, I commit to the following actions:

  • Hiring Black faculty members and, in all future hires, paying attention to multiple histories of qualification and capacities to know, research and teach in areas of literacy, math, mental health, disability, or queer/transgender histories as they intersect with racialization and colonization.
  • Checking in with and supporting Black and Indigenous students, staff, and faculty members.
  • Requiring significant training in Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) for all members of faculty hiring committees and for those serving as members of the Diversity, Equity and Respect (DER) committee.
  • Supporting the formalization of the proposed Anti-Oppressive course as required for all students in our undergraduate teacher education program.