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The open letter was released Wednesday morning. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik/Fulcrum

Open letter to university president supports eight demands released by student organizations last week

With an open letter to University of Ottawa president Jacques Frémont, over 100 professors and librarians have joined the chorus of voices demanding further action from the administration in the wake of the two carding incidents that have taken place on campus in the past four months. 

Conflict studies and human rights student Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce was carded and handcuffed by Protection Services officers in June. Education student Wiliston Mason was carded by a security officer when entering his residence building and workplace in September. 

The open letter to Frémont, released Wednesday morning, shows support for the two Black students and affirms the eight demands for action released by student organizations last week. Those organizations include the University of Ottawa Students’ Union, the Black Student Leaders Association, and 16 student governments, among others.

The university administration put four anti-discrimination measures in place at the start of September but the student groups say they fall short and fail “to address systemic racism in a meaningful way.”

“We encourage the university to implement students’ comprehensive demands for apologies, policy review, training, consultation, accountability, transparency, information and data collection, and Black, Indigenous and students of colour (BIPOC) representation,” the letter reads. 

The letter was backed by 102 signatures at the time of writing and the signing professors come from a wide range of faculties and departments on campus. 

“As teachers, we have a commitment to upholding a learning environment where all students feel safe, supported, and able to challenge themselves in the classroom,” the letter reads. “It would therefore be a violation of this duty for us to not add our voices to those of students calling for an end to anti-Black racism on campus.”

The letter highlights systemic barriers to the success of BIPOC students and professors at Canadian universities and says anti-oppression education and training are both “integral to successfully integrating anti-racism in our campus community.” 

The professors and librarians call for the centring of the needs and voices of BIPOC students, professors, and staff in developing anti-racism policies, along with representation.

“We support this student call for a university administration and culture that isn’t simply concerned about the appearance of antiracism, but is instead concerned with promoting meaningful change and racial justice.” 

The letter condemns “the lack of support and services offered by the university to students impacted by racism on campus.”

“But we applaud student leadership on this issue and we thank them for their hard work and dedication to fighting racism on campus,” the letter reads. “As professors, we stand with students.” 

In an emailed statement to the Fulcrum, the university administration said they received the letter and welcome professors and librarians’ “input into the broad conversation and exchange of opinions on this very important global issue.”

The statement adds the university is looking at how to best move forward with the interim committee struck to advise Frémont on how to address racism and discrimination on campus.

“The president already met with student representatives to get their views on establishing this committee on a permanent basis,” the statement reads. “No decision has been made yet.”

The first part of an independent investigation into Koulmiye-Boyce’s experience found race, insufficient training, and outdated procedures played a role in the way he was treated. The university says the officer who carded Mason is now banned from campus and is employed by a private firm under contract with the university.

The second part of the investigation into Koulmiye-Boyce’s experience, led by former vice-chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, will hopefully be released next month, according to the university. The investigation will examine the impacts of Protection Services’ policies and procedures on racialized people.

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