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Open Letters and Commitments to Equity

I was honoured over the last week or so to work with my colleagues Frankie Condon, Jay Dolmage, Jennifer Harris, Heather Smyth, and Vinh Nguyen to craft an open letter–as so many others have done!–expressing our disavowal of the politics of hate and division the recent US election seems to portend. We wanted to stake a claim for justice. And we wanted it to be local, and we wanted it to do something rather than just say something. So there are action items in here, that I am going to post on my office door for all to see, and on my office bulletin board to guide my actions every day.

Our letter, because we want it to be impactful, has to be local. If you are a UW staff, faculty, or alumni and want your name added, leave you name in the comments, or send me an email and I’ll add it.

If you like the letter but are not at the University of Waterloo, take what you will from it, and start a letter for your own institution.

Beliefs that are not voice have no impact; but statements without action are just as bad. We will hold ourselves to this, and try to make our little corner of the world a better place. We would love you to join us.

Please share widely.


Open letter to the University of Waterloo

We recognize that our feelings of anger, grief, and fear in response to the recent U.S. election are shared by many of our colleagues and students at the University of Waterloo. We condemn the hate crimes, hate speech, and everyday appeals to racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, ableism, and trans- and homophobia across North America and abroad that have so marred our collective hope for more fully realized global social justice.

We are committed to racial justice, religious freedom, and social equality. We stand in solidarity with colleagues and students whose well-being is threatened in the current political climate especially with those who are racialized Others, who are LGBTQ2, who are Muslims and Jews, immigrants and refugees, Indigenous, or disabled. We acknowledge and accept our right and our responsibility to act on this commitment to solidarity in our classrooms, our offices, our meeting rooms, and in our research, as well as in our communities beyond the bounds of our universities.

We are committed to the work of creating a just future in which Othered and dissenting perspectives and voices are acknowledged and respected, in which the rights of all peoples to full economic and political empowerment are recognized, and in which rights to religious freedom are honoured. We stand together against the politics of racism, white supremacy, hatred, and misogyny. We call on our institutional leaders and our colleagues to join with us in challenging and dismantling hate in all its forms on our campus, in our communities, our province, and our nation.

We, the undersigned, commit to the following actions:

  • We will foster and sustain equitable spaces for discussion in the classroom 
  • We will craft inclusive syllabi that recognize the plurality of voices, traditions, and perspectives in academic work, as well as in our student body 
  • We refuse to ignore, normalize, or explain away overt racism, homo- and transphobia, misogyny and xenophobia in our teaching, service, research, or public work for any reason, including undue deference to position or institution 
  • We will work to create a more just, equitable, supportive, and inclusive university, from our classrooms, to our offices, to our faculties and the broader institution, through policy initiatives and daily action 

We call on our university to:

  • Indigenize, by taking the following steps: 
    • Prioritize and follow through on the hiring of indigenous scholars in every faculty and discipline 
    • Include territorial acknowledgement prominently on all public documents and public relations materials as well as on syllabi and online course materials
    • Create conduits for indigenous students at all levels of study to attend the University of Waterloo 
    • Encourage and support University initiatives that particularly focus on innovation that works WITH indigenous communities to address inequalities, injustices, environmental, economic, and political problems that particularly impact on indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world. 
  • Work harder and more visibly to create and sustain a university environment that is fair, equitable, and welcoming for students, faculty, and staff of all faiths, gender identities, abilities, ethnicities, races, and nationalities paying particular attention to and with particular care for the needs and interests of those most likely to face discrimination 
  • Publicly recognize and dedicate the university’s care and attention to the arts and humanities where the values of justice, equality, fairness, and inclusion, where the histories, philosophical and spiritual traditions, arts and cultures of diverse peoples are studied and told 
  • Publicly recognize and support public intellectualism across all faculties and disciplines; that is, value and support faculty and student engagement beyond the bounds of the university with social, cultural, political, and economic reform or transformation toward the goal of social justice 

Dr. Carol Acton, Department of English Language and Literature, St. Jerome’s University, University of Waterloo
Dr. Lamees Al Ethari, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Alicia Batten, Department of Religious Studies & Theological Studies, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo
Dr. Lizbeth Berbary-Mohamed, Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo
Dr. Kate Rybczynski, Department of Economics, University of Waterloo
Dr. Frankie Condon, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Bruce Dadey, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Jay Dolmage, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Marlene Epp, Departments of History and Peace & Conflict Studies, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo
Dr. Robert Gorbet, Department of Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo
Dr. Dorothy Hadfield, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Jennifer Harris, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Ken Hirschkop, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Sara Humphreys, St. Jerome’s University
Dr. Corey W. Johnson, Recreation and Leisure Studies, Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo
Dr. Ashley Kelly, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Victoria Lamont, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Shana MacDonald, Department of Drama and Speech Communication, University of Waterloo
Dr. John McLevey, Department of Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo
Dr. Andrew McMurry, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Aimée Morrison, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Vinh Nguyen, Renison College, University of Waterloo
Dr. Jane Nicholas, Departments of History and Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies, St. Jerome’s University, University of Waterloo
Dr. Kathryn Plaisance, Department of Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo
Lorna Rourke, Librarian, St. Jerome’s University, University of Waterloo
Dr. Vanessa Schweizer, Department of Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo
Dr. Gordon Slethaug, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Heather Smyth, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Waterloo
Dr. Linda Warley, Associate Dean, Graduate Studies, Faculty of Arts
Dr. Vershawn Young, Department of Drama and Speech Communication, University of Waterloo

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