QUFA Executive Statement on Racism

Dear QUFA Members,

Since a Minneapolis Police Officer murdered George Floyd on May 25th, a wave of justified anger and recognition of the simple, elegantly stated truth that Black Lives Matter has swept the world. That George Floyd stands for and among innumerable men and women who have suffered racist violence in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia is now widely acknowledged even by those who hitherto resisted confronting the truth of racist violence. Moreover, the numbers of the victims increase even as demonstrators fill the streets and an unprecedented reckoning with racism fills editorial pages and in-boxes. The past several days saw video released of the March assault by RCMP on Chief Allan Adam of Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta, the recent killings by the RCMP of Rodney Levi and Chantel Moore in New Brunswick and the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta on Friday. QUFA joins the world-wide condemnation of racist violence, in Canada as well as the US. Moreover, we recognize that the racism that drives the violence we condemn also functions as a structuring principle in the life of our university. It determines who works here and what we teach and research, who our students are, what they choose to study and, crucially, who will never enter it.

QUFA’s mandate is to negotiate the terms and conditions of work for faculty, librarians and archivists and then see that those terms and conditions as expressed in the Collective Agreement (CA) are enforced. However, while the CA lays out a set of rules, it doesn’t determine the lived conditions of work for our Members. In particular, the CA doesn’t capture the way those conditions differ among Members. And, it must be acknowledged, in its preservation of important expressions of collegial governance and academic freedom the CA has also made it possible for some Members to enforce norms that have made the university a place of numbing struggle for others. It is not just the “University” as an abstract institution that perpetuates racism, but collegial decisions made by QUFA members, including on Appointment and RTP/RCAP committees, often under the guise of objectivity or the pursuit of excellence. Of course, the austerity regime that has prevailed in certain quarters of the University since at least 2008 has not helped either. The result is an environment at Queen’s that is not only unjust and unrepresentative of the society we serve, but academically diminished.

Systemic racism at Queen’s is manifest, of course, in many other ways besides the academic and collegial deliberations protected by the CA. The Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion (PICRDI) Report is one float in a parade of reports over the last three decades about how to address racism at Queen’s. The others are the D.E.T. Report (2011), the D.A.R.E report (2009) the Henry Report on Race Relations at Queen’s (2004) and the PAC Report (1991). (Links are below.) Many of these inquiries were prompted by racist incidents committed by students. Student behaviour is not something QUFA controls; however, each one of these reports is replete with instances of racism and hostility from QUFA members towards racialized faculty. Such behaviour, and the indifference or obliviousness to it of other faculty, create a poisonous working environment for Black, Indigenous and racialized faculty generally. It is deeply dispiriting how few of the recommendations in the PICRDI report intended to change the social and intellectual culture of the university have been addressed. The University has recently made a concerted effort to hire Black and Indigenous faculty. Moreover, thanks to much work by Black and Indigenous faculty and students, the University has agreed to the introduction of a Black Studies Minor, while last month saw the establishment at Senate of an Indigenous Studies major and medial degree.

These are welcome developments, but there’s a long way to go till we arrive at a Queen’s where there are Black and Indigenous faculty across disciplines and Faculties, where Black students are also proportionately represented, because they see Black and Indigenous faculty and students around them, and because they were supported rather than impeded in getting to university. This Queen’s would not just be fairer than the present one but an awful lot smarter, informed by better knowledge of how the world works, what its history actually is, and what its possibilities are.

In the meantime, here are few tools:

QUFA Caucuses are groups of QUFA Members who share a common interest. No agenda, no QUFA staff or officers, just an opportunity for colleagues to talk from where they are and what they need. Anyone interested in forming a Black Faculty/Librarian Caucus, an Indigenous Faculty/Librarian Caucus, a BIPOC Faculty/Librarian Caucus, QUFA’s Deluxe Zoom is your Zoom to use. Contact Elizabeth Polnicky to arrange a time.

QUFA Council: Council serves as a place to discuss what’s going on and what needs to go on at the university and to give direction to QUFA. Volunteer to represent your Unit.

Contact us if you have comments or ideas.

Sincerely,

The QUFA Executive Committee

Contact information for all individual Executive Members is here:

Reports