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We cannot keep going through a vicious cycle of racist incidents to excuses to promises with no subsequent action. Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum.

Three day protest at Tabaret shows lack of accountability and action when it comes to tackling racism at the U of O

In a tale that seems to be as old as time, the University of Ottawa administration has once again come under attack for not doing enough to fight anti-Black racism on campus. 

When caught in a public relations clusterfuck, their response is usually to create an advisory committee that promises real change on paper. The twist is that these committee’s (while promising on paper) bring little to no change in reality. 

Take a look at the former President’s Advisory Committee for a Racism Free Campus (PACRFC) that was created as a response to Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce being handcuffed and detained by campus security for over two hours in June of 2019. 

Although the creation of the PACRFC seemed noble, former members of the now-dissolved PACRFC described feeling exploited as the committee meetings discussed their trauma in regards to racism. According to Jason Seguya, who sat on the committee, an immense amount of trauma mining was present. 

Seguya, the UOSU’s equity commissioner was joined on the PACRFC by Judy El-Mohtadi, former equity commissioner of the UOSU, and Dilaye Detsa, U of O alumni and former director of community engagement for the BSLA.

In attempts to implement real change, U of O students and various student government representatives wanted to transform the PACRFC into more of an action-based committee. This idea was highlighted in a letter to the editor sent to the Fulcrum by Jamie Ghossein and Saada Hussen, the undergraduate representatives on the University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors.

On Nov. 23 the PACRFC was officially dissolved, however, instead of finding ways to be more involved in promoting an anti-racist campus, the U of O administration reverted to creating yet another new committee to meet the bare minimum of students’ requests.

The catch? This time it excluded previous members from the former PACRFC according to Seguya.

The new committee — entitled Action Committee on Anti-Racism and Inclusion (or ‘action committee’ for short) has its goal as “review and assess University resources, programs, policies, processes, and practices to understand how they contribute to systemic racism; provide recommendations that will further the inclusion of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) members at the University; and eliminate barriers on campus.”

Basically, another list of public relations jargon. 

A number of the old committee’s members have newly formed uRacism — a group protesting the action committee’s legitimacy, aiming to hold the university administration accountable for its inaction on racism at the U of O. 

Now this is taking action. And it illuminates the stark contrast between what the U of O administration has deemed reasonable and what students want. 

Since Friday afternoon in the Tabaret Hall lobby, uRacism-led protesting is questioning the legitimacy of the new Action Committee on Anti-Racism and Inclusion. 

“We reject the invitation to participate in their Action Committee on anti-Racism and Inclusion and do not recognize its legitimacy,” wrote uRacism on Facebook. 

Sitting down and protesting against the committee and demanding a meeting with the administration’s top officials is a prime example of the action that students are hoping to see from their university’s administration.

The fact that they have had to sit-in for three days and still haven’t spoken to anyone in the administration speaks volumes. 

This is a visual example of the lack of accountability and action when it comes to tackling racism at the U of O. 

There is a need for real change on this campus. We cannot keep going through a vicious cycle of racist incidents to excuses to promises with no subsequent action. 

The university must be transparent and accountable to BIPOC students and create a permanent and independent anti-racism office as suggested by the members of uRacism.  

We need sustainable change that ensures a campus that is safe for BIPOC folks and free of discrimination. 

Editorials are written by the Fulcrum’s twelve-person editorial board and express the shared opinion of the Fulcrum’s editorial staff. To share your own views, email editor@thefulcrum.ca.