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close up of social science building
The faculty is currently in the process of hiring a professor to teach the course. Image: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum

Course will be offered in the spring semester

The faculty of social sciences announced on April 6 that it would offer a new course on anti-racism activism. In an email to students, the faculty explained it wants to acknowledge and back efforts to combat racism led by BIPOC students and their allies, as well as help in decolonizing academia.

“This course will give students the chance to learn about anti-racist theories, to situate the role of academia in both reproducing and dismantling racism and to reflect on their own experiences in anti-racists actions,” wrote the office of the faculty’s vice-dean of undergraduate studies in the email.

The course, which will be offered in the spring semester, is titled SCS 4100: Anti-racist Activism in University Settings. It will take place from May 3 to June 12, 2021, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

Students who wish to register for the course need to send an email to the faculty’s vice-dean answering the following question: “What motivates you to participate in anti-racist actions in a university setting?”

The course will be offered both in French and English, and will be held in what the faculty calls a “bi-modal format”, meaning students can take the class virtually or choose to attend in-person.

The faculty is currently in the process of hiring a professor to teach the course. 

The creation of the course follows a year-long campaign by the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) in partnership with student activists to establish a mandatory anti-racism course for all undergraduate students. In a message to the Fulcrum, Babacar Faye, the UOSU’s president, highlighted the role activists and campus groups played in the creation of the course. 

“Students have been pushing for this throughout the year and this recognizes the need and gaps they have been highlighting.”

“The UOSU has been supportive of the work of these activists through letters of support and lobbying with the university, however, any credit should go to the mostly Black, racialized and Indigenous students who are working tirelessly to ensure mandatory anti-racism education is present for all students,” wrote Faye. 

Although it is a move in the right direction, Faye believes that much more can still be done when it comes to anti-racism education at the university.  

“It’s not the mandatory course [we] expected, and shouldn’t be considered a substitute, however, this course is a positive step and its very existence underlines an important need at the university.”

“I hope this will help further understanding and awareness of anti-racism and anti-oppressive work in academia and hope to see this course made available on a wider basis to allow more students to benefit from its materials,” he added.

Jason Seguya, the UOSU’s equity commissioner and spokesperson for uRacism, spoke about the impact that a course of this sort could potentially have.

“In my time working with anti-racism and anti-oppression framework (both in the community and on campus), one thing that has become abundantly clear is the need for education on these subjects before and while engaging.”

“A lot of unlearning and relearning is required. While participation in this work can improve the experiences of vulnerable communities, if done incorrectly, it has the equal possibility of further inflicting harm.”

“The creation of this course will hopefully equip future student leaders with the relevant skills to begin this work and the opportunity to engage with other leaders actively doing it, which is so powerful,” wrote Seguya in a message to the Fulcrum.