McMaster announces commitment to hiring 12 Black faculty members

In October, McMaster University completed an external review of Black student-athletes and their experiences with racism. The review was first initiated in July, prompted in part by tweets by former McMaster football star Fabion Foote who now plays for the Toronto Argonauts.

In a series of tweets, Foote shared his experiences of systemic racism within the McMaster Athletics & Recreation Department.

The review investigated the experiences of various students from as early as 2010 and included various interviews with both former and current Black athletes, Black staff and coaches and non-Black staff and coaches.

Completion of the review showed that a culture of systemic anti-Black racism is present at the school and has harmed a number of current and former athletes. 

Completion of the review showed that a culture of systemic anti-Black racism is present at the school and has harmed a number of current and former athletes.

“[I]t is clear that there is a culture of systemic anti-Black racism within McMaster Athletics as a result of individual and group actions and inactions from staff, coaches and department administrators. This culture is evident in explicit and implicit examples of anti-Black racism. It is also evident in a widespread lack of awareness, education, understanding, empathy and systemic perspective on issues of race and inclusivity,” the report said. 

“They probably think they’re working from neutral where they have to do something and fix it, as opposed to stopping doing things that they are already doing.”

McMaster President David Farrar shared a letter of apology to students and acknowledged that more action needs to be done. 

“On behalf of the University, I apologize for the anti-Black racism you experienced. I am deeply sorry that effective action was not taken to prevent this; there are no excuses for the behaviour you endured. I assure you that we are listening and that action is already being taken to implement the report’s recommendations and to begin the work with the Department and the broader university community to help us eliminate systemic racism,” the letter wrote. 

However, for Elvin Girineza, a fourth-year chemistry student, noted how several flaws of the review and the university’s response were apparent to him as a Black student.

I think it’s interesting to say the least, that they reviewed only athletes as part of the survey.”

I think it’s interesting to say the least, that they reviewed only athletes as part of the survey. Also just that it was more asking for experiences rather than something more proactive, more doing something to address it. [It was more] reactive and having to have their Black students remind them of what exactly is going on or has been already going on in the past,” Girineza said. 

On Nov. 23, McMaster announced that the school will be committing to hiring 12 Black faculty members. The announcement stated that this approach aims to ensure the school’s commitment to inclusivity is supported by Black scholarship excellence. 

The release of the initiative received support from many across social media, with people feeling pleased that the university is addressing the issue and taking action. 

Aside from showing support, some have also suggested the next steps the school can take to further foster inclusivity, such as considering similar initiatives for Indigenous scholars.

Others have also questioned whether this initiative is enough and how it can truly ensure that Black voices are being expressed in academia.

Dr. Alvin Thomas, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, responded to the announcement on Twitter.

“Along with the hiring, what positions, policies, procedures, processes and changes are being enacted to make sure that these new faculty have every opportunity and support towards success rather than becoming possibly sacrificial lambs as has happened with other academic spaces?”

“Along with the hiring, what positions, policies, procedures, processes and changes are being enacted to make sure that these new faculty have every opportunity and support towards success rather than becoming possibly sacrificial lambs as has happened with other academic spaces?” Thomas tweeted.

Girineza expressed that although hiring Black faculty is a step in the right direction, he believed a lot more work still needs to be done.

“They’re deciding how much influence and power [Black academics] get and then those new faculty will be restricted to their rules.”

“They’re deciding how much influence and power [Black academics] get and then those new faculty will be restricted to their rules. . .[McMaster is] only willing to budge however much they’re willing to budge. They’re not willing to fully listen and maybe take on a more humble role and, you know, take a step back and not be the one in charge of the final decisions when it comes to how institutions deal with its own problems,” said Girineza.

“They’re not willing to fully listen and maybe take on a more humble role and, you know, take a step back and not be the one in charge of the final decisions when it comes to how institutions deal with its own problems,” said Girineza. 

Girineza is no stranger to racism as a part of his everyday reality. When he had to choose where to attend university, the culture and severity of racism at each university played a part in his decision.

“For people who haven’t experienced racism it’s a theory to them more and there has to be more work put on looking at the extent of it. Does it really exist? While to the people who experienced the consequences, it’s just a reality,” Girineza expressed.

“For people who haven’t experienced racism it’s a theory to them more and there has to be more work put on looking at the extent of it. Does it really exist? While to the people who experienced the consequences, it’s just a reality,” Girineza expressed. 

Girineza added that if McMaster really wants to properly address anti-Black racism, they have to be willing to dive deeper into the issue and apply their actions systemically.

“As opposed to trying to put a bandaid on cancer,” Girineza said. 

“As opposed to trying to put a bandaid on cancer.” 

Girineza believes the problem is being handled by people who may not realize that they may also be contributing to the problem.

“They probably think they’re working from neutral where they have to do something and fix it, as opposed to stopping doing things that they are already doing,” said Girineza.

He said that if the university wants to foster a place of community and safety, they must do more than just the basic standard.

“I can’t applaud the institution for doing the bare minimum,” Girineza said.

“I can’t applaud the institution for doing the bare minimum,” Girineza said.

Image courtesy of Graphic by Sybil Simpson

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