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U. Ottawa students hold sit-in protest for ‘concrete’ action on racism

Students at the University of Ottawa are on day five of a sit-in protest outside of President Jacques Frémont’s office, and they hope it will force school officials to take “concrete” action against anti-black racism.

Black Student Leaders’ co-President Yanaminah Thullah told the Toronto Star the activists “want deadlines and concrete items of action,” not just “token consultations.”

Most recently, students were miffed that a professor used the N-word (in an academic context) back in October, and then at Frémont’s and other UO officials’ refusal to condemn not only the professor, but the 34 colleagues who wrote a letter supporting her.

Thullah complained that the UO Action Committee on Anti-Racism and Inclusion was established without student input, and when the committee did seek out student ideas, “the way [it] was being executed was not sustainable for all racialized students.”

The Ottawa Citizen reports the activists do not recognize the committee’s “legitimacy.”

The activists issued eight demands “to foster a more inclusive environment for racialized students” at UO, including

— The introduction of an anti-racism office at the university and autonomy for the human rights department.

— A Black, Indigenous and People of Colour anti-racism officer at the executive level, with their own staff and funds.

— The implementation of a mandatory anti-racism course for all undergraduate students.

— Calling for the university administration to commit to hiring Black professors who specialize in Critical Race Theory, and adjacent specializations.

The professor group called the Black, Indigenous and Racialized Professors and Librarians at the University of Ottawa started a Change.org petition over the weekend in support of the student activists. The profs say they stand with those “who continue to face the most harmful effects of white supremacy on our campus,” and that “the struggles against racism and decolonization are deeply intertwined and must be the highest priority of our university administration.”

In a statement, President Frémont noted he respects the activists’ right “to express their point of view on such a critical topic,” but added “for some, swift measures should be taken immediately to address anti-Black racism on our campus […] but we owe it to our students, faculty, and staff to take the time to listen to them, so we get our actions right.”

MORE: Students ‘appalled’ that profs back colleague who used N-word

MORE: U. Ottawa adjunct: ‘The Shape of Water’ allegory of Trump presidency

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.