July 13 - University of Alberta reaffirms commitment to address discrimination and harassment

13 July 2020

In response to the Students’ Union recent call to action, we would like to reaffirm that the University of Alberta is a community that values and actively works to strengthen equity, diversity, and inclusivity in our learning, research, and working environments. Acts of racism against our students, faculty, and staff are not acceptable.

We hear the students’ concerns. We have reached out to the Students’ Union to talk about how we can improve our procedures and student supports to be as transparent and fair as possible.

The most powerful tool we have as a society against racism is education. As a place of higher learning, education and the willingness to seek understanding and new paths forward is our greatest contribution to the movement to end systemic racism. We have EDI specialists in leadership positions whose priority and passion is helping our community make these commitments realities. This includes members of our leadership, vice-provosts, assistant deans, human rights specialists, academic experts, and student affairs professionals. Through units like our Office of Safe Disclosure & Human Rights, as well as other units across our campuses, we have created spaces and places for members of the university to share their experiences and concerns about inappropriate conduct, discrimination, and racism. This includes faculty level groups like the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry’s Office of Professionalism. This office provides members of the faculty with a safe space to identify any concerns regarding unprofessional conduct within our learning environments.

Our students make up the largest portion of our population, and the challenges they raise and champion have a significant impact on our ability to enact the ongoing culture shift that is underway. The Black Students’ Association and the Aboriginal Student Council are just two of the outstanding groups making strides to improve the experiences of our racialized students. These, and other student groups with similar mandates and interests, have demonstrated leadership among their fellow students, and they have also provided student perspectives and guidance to U of A staff and faculty. Together we can better identify acts of racism, how to respond to them when we see them, and how to support those who experience their harmful impacts.

We know that casual and systemic racism impacts us all, which is why we are committed to taking actions that further increase the diversity of our community. We’ve taken these steps by implementing changes to our hiring policies and recruitment efforts. We’ve engrained equity, diversity, and inclusion into these efforts. But we can and will do more. We are proud of our responsibility to educate and we take seriously the opportunities to empower our community to help make the world more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

~ Bill Flanagan, President & Vice-chancellor