Dench urges Douglas community to listen and learn
By Atiba Nelson, Staff Reporter
As part of Black Out Tuesday, Douglas College’s Twitter feed featured a black square in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Accompanying the black square was a link to a blog post from Douglas College Associate Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, Sarah Dench.
Dench’s post outlined her reflections on the protests and unrest in the United States, which are occurring concurrently with the pandemic. The post also acknowledged Canada’s history of racism. The statement encouraged educators to be “actively anti-racist—speaking and educating to oppose racism and systems of oppression.” She went on to urge the larger Douglas community to “think about how we take action— personally, and as organizations.”
Included with the post, after Dench’s validation, was this statement: “As an institution, Douglas College opposes all acts of racism and stands with people of colour to actively combat systemic bias in our communities. Students who experience grief, trauma, or stress resulting from racism and violence are encouraged to seek support.” The statement also included a list of links sponsored by Douglas College where students can seek support if needed.
The statement mirrors other sentiments expressed throughout the British Columbia higher education landscape. The same day Douglas College released its statement, Simon Fraser University (SFU) President and Vice-Chancellor Andrew Petter released a similar statement. The SFU statement also mentioned the institution’s appointment of Dr. Joy Johnson (the incoming President and Vice-Chancellor of SFU) to a committee advancing “equity, diversity, and inclusion.” In his online statement, Petter wrote this: “It’s all of our responsibility to combat racism, but none more so than those of us who have benefited from white privilege.”
Douglas and SFU joined UBC as post-secondary schools with anti-racist statements. Santa Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia posted a letter to the UBC Community on June 1, 2020. Ono’s statement, the longest of the three statements, outlined British Columbia’s oldest university’s institutional commitment. Most notably the UBC President committed to diversifying the faculty through the allocation of President’s Excellence Chairs—faculty positions created to attract outstanding educators and researchers to UBC—to black and Indigenous faculty members. Ono also asked the University community to reach out to him if they thought that there was more that UBC could do to combat racism.
If students are interested in resources and materials on combatting these issues, Douglas College’s Student Engagement and the Office for Student Support and Conduct offers the “Let’s DO Respect” campaign which aims to end sexual violence, racism, homophobia, and transphobia at Douglas with information for learners on campus.