Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence: Recommendations for Teaching and Learning

In the October edition of Edubytes, our guest editors Dr. Ryuko Kubota, Dr. Handel Kashope Wright and Dr. Shirley Chau discuss issues of teaching and learning featured in the University of British Columbia’s President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Final Report.


About ARIE Task Force and its final report

The Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force (ARIE TF) was convened in March 2021. In the beginning of 2022, it finalized its recommendations in its complete report.

The genesis of the ARIE TF is closely connected to the growing cases of racism in North America in 2020, especially the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis and the exponential increases in anti-Asian racism and related violence against Asian people prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June 2020, UBC’s then-President Santa Ono released statements against racism and expressed an institutional commitment to anti-racism and inclusion on UBC campuses. This was followed by the appointment of Dr. Ainsley Carry, Vice-President, Students, and Dr. Ananya Mukherjee, then-Provost, UBC Okanagan, as Co-Executive Leads of Anti-Racism, as well as the appointment of Dr. Handel Wright as Senior Advisor to the President on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence. Accordingly, the ARIE TF, co-chaired by Dr. Handel Wright (UBC Vancouver) and Dr. Shirley Chau (UBC Okanagan), was formed in March 2021.

The ARIE TF consisted of 34 members representing Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPOC) students, staff, and faculty at both UBC campuses. Each member served on one of the following three work or study committees: Student Committee, Staff Committee, and Faculty Committee, as well as one of the following three ethnoracial identity committees: Indigenous Committee, Blackness Committee, and People of Colour (POC) Committee.

Committees met intensively for several months and submitted a comprehensive report of close to 300 pages that outlined a total of 54 recommendations, including seven intersectional recommendations that address how race and racism intersect with other forms of identity-based discrimination (e.g., disability, language and accent, sexual orientation).


Implementation of recommendations in progress

All recommendations of the ARIE TF were accepted by President Ono and the leadership of the University of British Columbia. UBC is now engaged in the process of implementing the recommendations of the Task Force. Dr. Arig al Shaibah, Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion is leading efforts to design the implementation strategy. Current Co-Executive Leads on Anti-Racism, (Drs. Ainsley Carry and Rehan Sadiq, Provost, pro-tem, UBC Okanagan, together with Dr. Gage Averill, the Provost, pro-tem, UBC Vancouver) are active in implementation plans and measures. Plans and strategies for implementation of some recommendations in the short, medium and long term are being developed variously at the university, campus, faculty and departmental levels.


Recommendations for Teaching and Learning

The ARIE TF recommendations address many problems of institutional structures and practices that need to be transformed in order to promote anti-racism and inclusivity for students, staff, and faculty belonging to IBPOC backgrounds. As such, the full set of recommendations includes a wide range of topics and issues that aim to fulfill the purpose of UBC: “Pursuing excellence in research, learning and engagement to foster global citizenship and advance a sustainable and just society across British Columbia, Canada and the world.” Clearly, teaching and learning constitute the core of achieving this purpose and all 54 recommendations support this purpose in interwoven ways.

In this edition of Edubytes, we list recommendations closely pertaining to the improvement of teaching and learning for anti-racism and inclusive excellence. In particular, we spotlight two of the recommendations made by the Student Committee. We also highlight their connections with other recommendations in the report, in the boxes below.


Student Recommendation 46: Increase diversity in academia at UBC

This set of recommendations problematizes Western and Eurocentric lenses in the academia and academics in terms of what is taught, how it is taught, and by whom. The set of recommendations comprehensively represents key elements of anti-racism and inclusive excellence in teaching and learning at three levels: (a) individual, (b) institutional, and (c) epistemic (i.e., knowledge). Specific recommendations in this category are summarized here.


1. Diversifying curricula and syllabi

Curricula and syllabi should integrate non-Western, non-Eurocentric views, including knowledge from the global South (i.e., “developing” countries and marginalized communities in the global North) and non-English-language scholarship.

Syllabi should be viewed as living documents that can and should be altered based on students’ feedback on supporting the lived experiences of IBPOC students. The feedback can come from end-of-term course evaluations that include questions, such as: Did this class challenge your previous knowledge or perspective? Did the course content and instruction enable you to apply the knowledge you gained to your lived experiences or your community?


Note that diversifying course content is a significant issue for the Indigenous Committee, from the perspective of decolonizing knowledge that affirms Indigenous ways of knowing without misrepresenting, distorting, or misusing Indigeneity. This diversification is also recommended by the Blackness Committee with the vision of elevating Black ideas and history in the academy. These recommendations for epistemic anti-racism also encourage the hiring and retention of faculty who promote these perspectives.


2. Anti-racist education for international students

Racialized and minoritized international students (e.g., Indigenous students from India, White Latina/o/x) may not identify themselves or others like them as IBPOC or minoritized upon arrival. Many international students need anti-racist support and inclusion to understand the nature of the dominant culture at UBC and Canada as well as the racialized identities of themselves and others.


Anti-racist education should be for all students. The reports from the Blackness Committee and the Indigenous Committee include problematic classroom interactions with professors and peer students. They include being attacked when mentioning residential schools and unceded land or being offended by professors’ or students’ use of the N-word in jokes. The POC Committee recommends offering an “anti-racist certificate” for students while completing their degree, which will prepare them to become better members of wider society.


3. Increase IBPOC faculty members

IBPOC students need to see themselves represented in the classroom to feel welcomed. The university needs a larger number of IBPOC faculty, especially those who also identify as 2SLGBTQ+, disabled, or having non-anglophone backgrounds.


All ARIE Committees stress the importance of hiring and retaining more IBPOC faculty members. This will obviously lessen institutional racism. However, IBPOC faculty members must also be held accountable for diversifying syllabi and curriculum. Hiring IBPOC faculty does not automatically reduce epistemic or individual racism, since Eurocentric knowledge is so entrenched in academe, and anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism—along with other kinds of racism and biases—pervade our campuses. This leads to the next recommendation…


Student Recommendation 40: Training concerning anti-racism and retention of teaching faculty

Teaching faculty, regardless of their backgrounds, often have difficulties to navigate classroom conversations concerning race, intersectional identities (e.g., gender, language, sexuality, religion, disability), colonialism and emotional labour. This frequently causes psychological distress and trauma among IBPOC students or forces them to “teach their instructors” as token experts on why specific words or views are inappropriate. Thus, the Student Committee recommends the following:


1. Educate all teaching faculty so that they are better able to teach with diverse and anti-oppressive perspectives

Instructors should receive annual education regarding anti-racism and anti-oppression in order to meaningfully support IBPOC students and provide them with a safe space for learning.


2. Include commitment to anti-oppression in the assessment of teaching faculty

Faculty members should be held accountable for the commitment to anti-oppression in teaching. Such assessment should inform promotion and tenure decisions.


Educating all faculty members on anti-racism and anti-oppression is recommended by all ARIE Committees. The POC Committee, for instance, recommends “a comprehensive anti-racism training/education program across campuses, with a mandated core component for all faculty, staff, students and administrators”.

Similarly, the Indigenous Committee recommends developing comprehensive training tools for all students, faculty and staff to eradicate anti-Indigenous racism; increase basic knowledge of the histories, worldviews, and diversity of Indigenous peoples; and create spaces that are culturally, spiritually, socially, emotionally, and physically safe with no assault or denial of identity.


Going forward

With much more work to be done, there are currently numerous pedagogical resources and professional development opportunities available to instructors that address some of these critical topics. Here are some places to start:


Faculty resources:

Visit the UBC Inclusive Teaching website for more resources and professional development opportunities.


Read related editions of Edubytes:

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