Concluding Remarks

Thank you, everyone, for your participation in these dialogues. It has been an amazing couple of days. On behalf of everyone on the organizing team, we are very privileged that the University of Toronto has had the pleasure of hosting all of you at this virtual event.

As we said to you at the beginning, those of us at U of T came to this event with a profound sense of humility, knowing that we are doing our part but that our part is not good enough. We wanted to come together with others who share our convictions about a just and inclusive academic community, to see how we could work together.

We can say that we have gained from the experience. The ability to convene such a committed group of people to engage with the issue of anti-Black racism and Black inclusion has enriched our understanding, our knowledge and our ideas about how we may proceed. So, on behalf of the University of Toronto, we want to thank all of you for that opportunity and for believing that we can, together, do something that is meaningful and impactful.

We hope that the last couple of days have been valuable for all of you as well, that they have been productive and enriching for you. It certainly has given you the opportunity to hear many truths, some of which are not palatable to us as institutions but, nevertheless, define the lives that many within our communities live every day. It behooves us to applaud everyone for the courage to share and the willingness to work together to address those challenges and those blots on our conscience as a society, as well as to remind us of what our mission is supposed to be.

These dialogues have afforded us the opportunity to acknowledge those truths and to engage in critical introspection and reflection that puts us on the track to making amends, to becoming better, to enhancing what it is that our mission is meant to be. The deliberations demonstrate the wealth of community and the value of inclusion. Everybody here has made a contribution to that shared understanding, that shared knowledge, but is also leaving these dialogues enriched by what they have gained by having different people around the table.

If we are looking for palpable evidence of what inclusive excellence means, then the last couple of days have shown us what that could look like, and that we have an opportunity to amplify what we have gained as a result of a coming-together of different people in the same space, with a singular purpose of facilitating inclusive excellence.

People have made the point over the course of the last couple of days that inclusion and excellence are not opposites. They are, in fact, anything but, and can be made to work together in an integrated fashion that enhances who we are – as those who are on the frontiers of knowledge production, as those who cultivate future leaders, as those whom society looks to, to advance what it is that makes us a forward-thinking and self-sustaining community. So, there can be no better expression of inclusive excellence than what we have seen in the last couple of days.

It is important, as we leave here today, to sustain the momentum, to network, to mobilize in support of the principles and the goals that we have heard articulated in these deliberations. It is that momentum which is going to sustain us. It is that momentum which is going to ensure that the principles and the actions that we pull together from the deliberations are, in fact, going to be supported by the accountability mechanisms that we have.

Accountability is not a reified term. It is enabled by the people who are behind it and push it. We are the people; we are the ones who belong to different associations; we are the ones who belong to disciplines; we are the ones who shape curriculum; we are the ones who drive decisions. As much as a majority of people here may be on the margins of that, by bringing together the full panoply of our community, we all are able to make a difference, depending on where we are and in our own small ways. Together, we can then enable change that is impactful.

Some people have asked why the charter is called the Scarborough Charter. Part of the rationale is simple. As you all know, much of the work, in terms of planning and logistics for the Dialogues, has been administered from the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto. If we were meeting in person, you would all have come to Scarborough to be part of this process. At a more substantive and symbolic level, Scarborough – just by accident or coincidence of geography and the reality of the demographic group we are talking about – has a significant number of Black people. It is also one of the most diverse communities you can find anywhere in this country.

So in a substantive sense, Scarborough, by its location, represents the experiences of the people who matter in this conversation and what diversity looks like. It also symbolizes our commitment to recognizing and honouring people in communities like this. Scarborough, just like the Black community across Canada, is marginalized. The name of the charter represents a commitment to elevating this community, and says that the people here “deserve a place in this conversation and are reflective of the many Black communities across the country – from coast to coast to coast – who live the realities that we are talking about.”

It is also important to include the fact that the work we are undertaking is national in scope. So, the Scarborough Charter is anchored in place and in experience, but it is amplified at the national level.

Together, we have worked to co-create this charter that will engage and lead our institutions with accountability through the values of EDI and inclusive excellence. So, let’s build on this moment. Before we all sign off, I want to thank all the attendees for joining us today, nationally, and engaging in these conversations. Thank you to the panelists and the participants for your contributions, for innovating on the spot and sharing your insights from your experiences. To the planning committee, thank you for dedicating your time to the development of these two days; for facilitating these meaningful and rich conversations in each of the sessions; and for ensuring that our conversations were guided to address systemic change, including principles, actions and accountabilities.

The creation of the charter is going to be a participatory and transparent process, which we started yesterday. As Theresa Rajack-Talley asked us all, about how to define transformative institutions, we want a transformative sector that is bold, innovative, ready to commit to systemic change and accountable to our students and communities. In our plenary session, we all learned about the key components that will establish the Scarborough Charter, which our institutions can sign on to and be part of in terms of principals, actions and accountabilities.

Throughout this process, you have all been able to make your contributions to the development of the charter. We want to continue to hear from you. Next week, you are going to get a survey asking for feedback that we will incorporate into the deliberations to inform the charter.

What happens next is that the panel co-leads and the panelists will distill the deliberations. We will work together with our Inter-Institutional Advisory Committee and will reach out to you. Since a charter cannot be written by 3,000-plus people, this work will be done by a smaller group who represent the different conversations that have happened over the last couple of days. The draft will be made available to you when it is done, for feedback from all of you, who have a say in this matter, as well as our external partners.

Once that phase is complete, we will engage with our institutional partners who have committed to signing off on the goals of the charter, to make sure that at some point in the not-too-distant future we are able to bring to reality all the things that you have worked hard over the last couple of days to pull together.

We do not have to wait for the charter, however, to begin the work that we have talked about. These two days have allowed you to learn, to see best practices, to see what you can begin to do right now, even as we work together to formulate the charter. We can create things now, create equity within our practices and processes, based on human rights principles. The work can start now – working with students, faculty and staff to develop recommendations for the structural changes that are required, to ensure that we create accountabilities with timelines. Our hope is that you will all connect with this network to transform the sector, to be truly inclusive. So please go ahead and do what you need to do to get things moving because the work is necessary and the cause is right. The value of inclusive excellence is not in doubt.

We have an obligation to act, and that obligation is driven by the imperative to do what is right. It is absolutely critical that we embody and become vocal proponents of an ethos of inclusive excellence, which will give us the courage to do what is right, the conviction to stand for what is right and to stand by it, the humility to be learning organizations in the true sense. The willingness to change structures, processes, practices and cultures; as well as openness to enable spaces for other experiences, perspectives, forms of excellence and ways of knowing, beyond those which have been accorded pride of place – this is what will make us better institutions and a better sector, able to serve equity-deserving communities, and all communities, at large, in the best way possible.

We need to have the boldness to upset the apple cart for the common good so that inclusive excellence can be nurtured, sustained and promoted. Action will not drive itself. Action is yearning to be unleashed. So, we should go forth, individually and collectively, to do our part as agents of that change which is needed to enable substantive inclusive excellence, and not just the rhetoric of its “feel good” version.

This is not the end of the dialogues on anti-Black racism and Black inclusion. They will continue in different ways and in different forums. We at the University of Toronto are committed not only to doing our part to sustain these conversations but also to enabling the kinds of actions that are necessary for all of us to take.


National Dialogues Co-Convenor Wisdom Tettey,
Vice-President, University of Toronto and Principal, University of Toronto Scarborough


National Dialogues Co-Convenor Karima Hashmani,
Executive Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, University of Toronto


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