Laurentian takes another step in addressing systemic racism as professors join the Scholar Strike
SUDBURY -- Today is the second day of Scholar Strike Canada, a movement originating in the United States inspired by the strike by professional athletes calling for racial justice and the end of anti-Black police violence.
Academics from universities across the country, including two in Sudbury, are taking part in two days of action to address systemic racism. Professors at both Laurentian and Huntington have cancelled classes to participate.
It is the first week of the fall term for students at Laurentian and many classes were cancelled both Wednesday and Thursday as professors paused their teaching and administration duties to participate in the protest.
Sudbury anti-racism group known as ULU, pronounced "oo-loo", says the university's support of the strike is a really good first step. ULU stands for Ultuntu, Lunginsa and Usawa and is derived from three languages spoken in Africa. In English, they mean humanity, justice and equity and are the focus of the group's work.
Hediyeh Karimian and Kadre Gray are two of ULU's founding members. Karimian is a graduate student and Gray recently graduated.
"This is the first time I've ever seen Laurentian do something like this, which I think is really great and it shows that their direction that they're headed and with president Hache leading the university," said Karimian, who is in her fifth year at the school.
She said she has spoken to several professors who have been positively impacted by the school's support of their participation.
"In 26 years, no president had ever said 'we're going to allow this and we're going to participate in this because we value this.' So, I think that's great that that's happening," said Karimian. "Just standing up for Black, Indigenous, and students of colour, the whole BIPOC community, I think that that's really impactful."
She said the university president's support is important and empowering for the institution's faculty.
"I think we've officially peeled a layer of that onion to fighting systemic racism and I hope that it continues," said Karimian.
Earlier in the week, Hache said the university is excited to be part of the change and has taken steps toward racial equality.
"We know that the McEwen School of Architecture is fully participating, but it's quite difficult to track across all the departments," said Isabelle Bourgeault-Tasse, executive director of communications at Laurentian, in an email to CTV News Thursday afternoon. "We know that at least a dozen members of faculty are participating, but we haven't been able to develop a sense of how many classes are affected."
Laurentian has committed to developing:
A physical safe space for Black, Indigenous and people of colour on campus
Supporting a forum for students/faculty/staff/administration to openly discuss issues of systemic discrimination on a regular basis
Provide unconscious bias and anti-racism training, especially for those who sit on hiring committees, training on equity hiring practices, the benefits of a diverse workforce.
"As I reminded the Laurentian community earlier this year, our broader communities need us to take action, to be leaders, and to do more than we have done before," said Hache. "Our community is absolutely capable of affecting change."
CTV News reached out to both Nipissing University in North Bay and Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie to see if there was participation in this event.
"While we aren't aware of any faculty and staff participating in this week's Scholar Strike, the University supports the activation of open dialogue and action around the important issues of racism, inequality, and the Black Lives Matter movement in order to invoke positive change," said Nipissing in an email statement Thursday afternoon.
No response was received from Algoma University by the time of publication.
For more information on anti-racism or to get in contact with ULU, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the group on Instagram.