The initiative comes after recommendations made by the schools’ Anti-Black Racism and Task Force Plan, in alignment with their pledge to the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education. A national initiative, the Scarborough Charter aims to redress anti-Black racism and foster Black inclusion in post-secondary institutions.
The BSI is currently hiring twelve Black faculty and librarian positions to set the backbone for the institute. The institute will also work on improving the visibility of Black scholarship through symposiums, co-op, and job placements for Black students and engagement with Black diasporic communities through visits, trips, and collaborations.
The university hopes the BSI can improve relations with the Black community on campus after several incidents of discrimination that have led to calls for change. A scathing independent review conducted by Charles C. Smith Consulting painted a sobering picture of University of Windsor’s history of anti-Blackness, pointing to many cases of discrimination, the use of the N-word, and other anti-Black practices.
One of the more well-known recent incidents is that of Jordan Afolabi, a University of Windsor student who was banned from campus for defending himself from a white student who physically assaulted him. Afolabi, a law student, was suspended from campus instantly while his aggressor was not reprimanded. After an independent investigation found Afolabi was acting in self-defense, he was re-instated on campus, and his aggressor was punished.
Whether a Black Studies program can actually address the lived realities of people like Afolabi is yet to be seen. Apart from enhancing the visibility and understanding of the Black experience through scholarship, the University of Windsor has little detail about how this initiative will actively imbue anti-racism on campus. While Black scholarship is welcome, there is the real possibility that the BSI will pigeonhole Black students into programs that do not lead to meaningful and well-paid careers, furthering systematic disenfranchisement.
According to Career Explorer, a website that equates school programs with future earnings, Black studies graduates can expect to make a little over $30,000 after graduating. This figure is hardly above the poverty line. Often Black-focused programs are genuine calls by Black students and faculty to have a safe space, but end up deepening inequities when the programs are unconnected to job markets or research funding opportunities. It brings to mind the old adage that all Egyptology students study to be Egyptology professors. Without proper connections to postgraduate careers, Black students often end up in jobs that leave them over-educated and underemployed, an issue the Black community in Windsor is calling out.
Yet what the BSI does bring is an educational space to speak on Black issues and allow the community to gather and reflect. For it to be successful, connecting the institute to the Canadian Black community is integral. Not only does scholarship need the context of community to grow, but academics can improve the understanding and analysis needed to empower Black organizations, individuals, and communities.
Dr. Natalie Delia Deckard will be the BSI’s founding director and responsible for the success of the institute to address anti-Black racism and improve student outcomes on campus. On the role of the Black Studies Institute she said:
“We now have a space to centre the research of those working to lessen health disparities, increase educational opportunities, reduce employment discrimination and increase the living standards in Black communities throughout Canada and the world. Windsor’s position as a hub of global communities and histories demands not only attention to the mitigation of anti-Black racism but a mandate to Black excellence.”
The BSI will launch in the fall of 2023. More information and updates on UWindsor’s Black Studies Institute are available here.
Applications for the new positions close on Tuesday, January 10, 2023.