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June 10, 2020
Good morning everybody,
It’s been two weeks since George Floyd was killed, and like millions of people worldwide I am still haunted by the horrible scene. In addition to our formal statement of May 31, I want to start my message today by denouncing anti-Black racism and racism in all its ugly forms. Racism is an old and deadly disease that can only be fought with courage, solidarity, empathy, and most importantly a willingness to examine and reform the structures and practices that inhibit the full potential and participation of any member of society. Carleton is a diverse community that strives for inclusion, but we are part of the broader world and in no way immune from these issues and challenges.
We have made progress this year, but there is no question that much remains to be done. You might have seen that earlier this week, the Provost and I announced three new senior leadership positions to give additional visibility and impact to our equity, anti-racism, and Indigenous initiatives. This is an important step for our community but the burden of change is on each and every one of us. It is our shared responsibility to always seek to do better, and to be part of the solution.
The new Equity and Inclusive Communities Advisory Group has started its work towards identifying gaps and ensuring the full strategic integration of equity, diversity and inclusion – including anti-racism – into the work of the university. The committee was established in April and held its first meeting on May 26, on the eve of George Floyd’s murder. I am proud to sit at the table as an ex-officio member and take this opportunity to thank all the members of the group for their commitment and efforts. The advice and guidance of the committee will ensure that our response is both strategic in this important moment, and sustained over the long term.
Indeed as we look to the future, living together in a diverse and complex world will be one of the greatest challenges we face as we strive for both individual wellness and sustainability of our planet. Our newly approved Strategic Integrated Plan, deeply anchored in our history and our values, acknowledges “a pervasive need for greater understanding and commitments to accessibility, equity, diversity, and inclusion,” and calls upon the campus community to “work together in ways that also demonstrate our commitment to equity and inclusion.” Let’s not accept the status quo but challenge ourselves – as it was expressed to me recently – to take serious, ambitious strides towards an anti-racist future.
For those who wish to access resources and other supports to engage the issues, you may reach Equity and Inclusive Communities through our Senior Advisor on Human Rights and Equity, Ikram Jama, at Ikram.Jama@carleton.ca.
As we struggle with racism, we of course continue to face the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, including the growing awareness of the disproportionate impacts of the virus on equity-seeking groups, notably Racialized, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ persons. As Ontario cautiously moves into Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, I continue to take pride in our community’s ability to adapt, with flexibility and compassion, to this unsettling and immensely disruptive situation. Notably, our researchers have quickly focused their efforts on finding solutions to the challenges of the public health crisis, and I would like to offer sincere thanks and congratulations to everyone involved in the 59 research projects that were funded as part of the Carleton University COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Grants competition.
In closing, these are difficult times and it is normal and understandable that we at times experience increased feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety. We are all humans and there are no superheroes. Please make sure to plan for some time off this summer, and reach out if you need help. No one has to suffer alone.
I hope that we can all take some time to connect in the next two weeks as we virtually celebrate Appreciation Week and virtually celebrate the Class of 2020. As always, thank you for all that each of you is doing to make Carleton such an engaged and exceptional community.
Stay safe everyone,
President and Vice-Chancellor