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U of T launches anti-Asian racism working group

The University of Toronto is launching an Anti-Asian Racism Working Group, with input from students, to tackle the issue and make it “more inclusive and welcoming” to members of Asian communities.

The move follows a rise in anti-Asian attacks in recent years, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Photo: Pexels

A report will be put together recommending “actionable steps” to respond to anti-Asian racism

The plan for the group includes consulting students, faculty and other members of the university’s wider community, asking them to share their experiences of anti-Asian racism on campus.

“We want to invite their recommendations on how to foster a more inclusive and respectful environment for Asian community members,” a U of T spokesperson told The PIE News. 

“The consultation strategy will include the use of surveys, focus groups and interviews to connect with as many people as possible,” they explained.

It was also made clear that those who come forward, and community members university wide will be able to engage with the Working Group “as they are comfortable”.

“We want to invite their recommendations on how to foster a more inclusive and respectful environment”

A survey, the spokesperson said, will provide anonymity “for folks who wish to share their experiences but not be identified”.

A report will be put together recommending “actionable steps” to respond to anti-Asian racism across the institution’s campuses, as well as documenting the experiences gathered in the phase of talking to the university’s community.

“[It] will encompass recommendations shared by the university community members, data on Asian representation among students, faculty, and staff as well as existing research and leading practices in address anti-Asian racism,” the spokesperson explained.

A plan to develop a “tri-campus inventory of existing resources” is also being put together, including initiatives and projects that address anti-Asian racism and “advance inclusion for Asian community members”.

The Working Group will be co-chaired by Woodsworth College principal Carol Chin and assistant director of student information systems, enterprise applications and solutions integration and IT services Vikram Chadalawada.

According to Chin, the group will “draw on the experiences of previous anti-racism initiatives” – including that of the Anti-Black Racism Task Force.

“This is not just for the Asian community,” said Chadalawada.

“It’s also for everyone who interacts with members of the Asian community at U of T – so it applies to all of us,” he continued.

“We want to enhance the awareness of everyone who participates in university life, and we hope this approach opens doors to deeper, respectful, more meaningful conversations,” he added.

The report will be handed to the university’s president, Meric Gertler, as well as VP and provost Cheryl Regehr and VP of people strategy, equity and culture Kelly Hannah-Moffat.

The aim is to have it completed and delivered by the end of 2022.

In a message to the institution’s community, some of whom will be coming forward to share their experiences, the executives said that enhancing inclusivity was a “collective responsibility”.

“Systemic anti-Asian racism has unfortunately been a lived reality”

“As an institution and as a community, we have been concerned by recent incidents of anti-Asian racism here at U of T, in our city-region, and indeed across North America.

“[We must] develop strategies to dismantle barriers… for Asian members of the U of T community,” they said.

The executive director of equity, diversity and inclusion at U of T also agreed that there is a “pressing need” to be “intentional in the ways we address” the problem.

“Systemic anti-Asian racism has unfortunately been a lived reality… without a doubt, the Covid pandemic exacerbated already existing inequities and inequalities, and the reality of xenophobia has continuously manifested itself physical and verbal forms of violence against Asian community members,” said Jodie Glean.

“U of T is looking forward to engaging the community on this important matter,” she added.

“We reaffirm the University’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion and look forward to receiving the report for the Anti-Asian Racism Working Group,” the spokesperson told The PIE.

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