What are the National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities?
It is a series of national forums focused on addressing equity and inclusion in the higher education sector in Canada. The first forum, set to take place in October, will focus on anti-Black racism and Black inclusion.
Why was this initiative started?
This initiative, involving a series of national dialogues, recognizes the multitude of equity and inclusion issues within the higher education sector. Our institutions have a critical role to play in addressing the barriers and disparities that we know are experienced by equity-deserving groups. The goal of these national conversations, across a range of topics, is to move beyond talk to create and implement effective and sustainable concrete actions to address inequities within our institutions and across our sector. U of T plans to facilitate, together with other Canadian universities and colleges, future forums that will address topics such as Indigeneity, mental health, disability, gender, etc.
What will take place during this first forum?
Conversations will include sharing experiences of anti-Black racism in academia, learning from best practices being used by higher education institutions, and concrete actions that can be taken to address the systemic racism within the Canadian higher-education sector.
Dialogues will also cover specific topics such as, access and success for Black students; staff and faculty; inclusive teaching, learning and curricula; representation within decision-making structures; enabling community and belonging; responsibilities and obligations of non-Black peers as partners; and how best to collect and use race-based data.
What outcome can we expect from the forum?
A national coordinating committee will create a national charter of principles and actions, based on the forum conversations and discussions, that participating institutions can commit to draw on as they address anti-Black racism and Black inclusion.
Students, staff, faculty, senior administrators, and alumni from Canadian colleges and universities and members of the public are invited to participate.
When and where will it take place?
It will take place on Thursday, October 1 and Friday, October 2, 2020 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST. This year’s forum will take place virtually.
Who’s organizing the event?
The event is being coordinated by the University of Toronto, in partnership with colleges and universities across Canada.
Will accessible services be available?
Accessible services, including American Sign Language, Live Captioning, and French Interpretation, will be avaliable, upon request.
American Sign Language
American Sign Language is a natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States and most of Anglophone Canada.
Live Captioning (provided in French and English)
Captioning is aimed at people who are Deaf and Hearing Impaired. Captioning, similar to television subtitling, converts the spoken word into text, which is displayed on an electronic caption unit that is viewed by the audience.
Simultaneous interpretation refers to a live interpretive technique in which a professional interpreter listens to a speech and translates it in real time into another language, with only a few seconds of lag between the speaker and the interpreter.
What topics will be explored at future forums?
Future Dialogues may cover topics such as Indigeneity, mental health, disability, as well as the role of institutions in shaping inclusive socio-economic development.
How can I join the Dialogue?
Registration for the 2020 Dialogues is closed. Sessions will be recorded and available to watch after the event. Sign up for updates on future Dialogues by joining the mailing list.
Many higher education institutions do not have a great track record when it comes to anti-Black racism and Black inclusion. What makes them qualified to initiate or lead a dialogue to address these issues?
In coordinating this national forum, partner institutions are not suggesting that they are excellent examples for addressing anti-Black racism and Black inclusion. We acknowledge that, as institutions and as a sector, we have a lot of work to do on these issues. We also recognize that there are many individuals within our institutions and our sector, who have been working tirelessly on building awareness, and creating change. The Dialogues allow us to work together in a coordinated, concerted, sector-wide manner to create concrete actions that would ensure meaningful, lasting, and impactful change.
A lot of conferences take place but result in little action, what makes this initiative different?
The purpose of these Dialogues is to not only share experiences and best practices, but to formulate and implement concrete actions to address anti-Black racism and Black inclusion within individual institutions and across the sector. The forum will be split into two key components. The first will address anti-Black racism and the challenges, opportunities, and barriers to Black inclusion. It will be followed by a second day that will host extensive deliberations focused on generating concrete actions and establishing accountability mechanisms to ensure lasting change. This will lead to the development of a national charter of principles and actions that participating institutions can commit to in their efforts to address Black inclusion and anti-Black racism.
What senior leadership will be involved?
This forum is a partnership with universities and colleges across Canada. Senior leaders from across these institutions will be assigned to participate in a dialogue addressing one of the nine topics. They will be expected to listen and learn but to also play an active role in formulating concrete actions, accountability mechanisms, and eventually a national charter of principles that will commit all institutions to address anti-Black racism and Black inclusion.
What guarantees do we have that real change will come from this Dialogue?
Recognizing that there have been many conferences, summits and/or other events aimed at addressing anti-Black racism, this forum moves us beyond dialogue to commit to a set of actions and principles that senior leaders, faculty, staff, and students from across partnering institutions would co-develop and draw from in making the necessary changes. These commitments would be represented in the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education: Principles, Actions, and Accountabilities (the Scarborough Charter). It will be called the Scarborough Charter to represent the virtual home of the event, and it will enable each individual, department, and institution (college, university or sector-wide body) to be held accountable by its own community and its peers for its actions in addressing anti-Black racism and Black inclusion in support of lasting change.
How is this different than other anti-Black racism initiatives?
This forum is unique in bringing together all relevant actors in our sector to focus on addressing, at a deep and broad level, anti-Black racism and Black inclusion in various areas of higher education. Other Initiatives are addressing anti-Black racism and Black inclusion by focusing on a segment of issues in the sector, drawing on a sub-group within the sector, or challenging anti-Black racism in other sectors, such as corporate Canada. These types of initiatives are not at odds with one another but are in fact, complementary, as they commit organizations to taking action on an issue that is long overdue across multiple sectors – addressing anti-Black racism in our institutions, organizations and communities.
What about all the work already being done in this space? Are you ignoring/duplicating those efforts?
No, this national forum will not ignore or duplicate work that has already been done in this space. In fact, bringing people together to talk about their experiences and to share best practices will allow us to build on ongoing initiatives within our own institutions and across the educational sector. Addressing anti-Black racism in our institutions means listening, learning and partnering with Black staff, faculty and students to examine the barriers in our structures and practices and then committing to strategies for systemic change. Developing a national charter with a shared commitment to principles, actions, and accountabilities on confronting anti-Black racism and promoting Black inclusion within the higher education sector is critical to enabling meaningful and lasting change in the sector.
Will the content of the conference be available after?
Yes, all dialogues and materials will be made available online for viewing following the conference on Friday, October 2, 2020. Communities are encouraged to utilize the materials to support their own local dialogues.
What if I cannot attend the full four-hours on both dates?
Although attendees are encouraged to participate fully in the Dialogues, the virtual nature of the event allows flexibility for participation.