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Windsor Law and Anti-Black Racism

Dear Members of the Windsor Law community,

We hope you had a restful break and we look forward to the law school moving forward in positive directions this year. We will continue to build a law school community where everyone feels safe and welcome.

Windsor Law’s administration is committed to tackling anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, other forms of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and all other forms of discrimination, including intersectional discrimination, at the law school. Anti-Black racism (ABR) has been a particularly serious issue on our campus; this communication seeks to set out what Windsor Law is doing and needs to do in this regard. In doing so, we gratefully acknowledge that much of the ABR work on campus has been done by BIPOC students, faculty, and staff, including members of Windsor Law’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and the Law Faculty’s Anti-Black Racism Committee which was established in September 2020.

The most pressing issue is student safety, especially in light of the abhorrent behaviour and slurs of members of the Delta Chi fraternity. The University has launched an independent investigation into that matter. Subsequent to the exposure of the Delta Chi issue, members of our law school community received hateful and threatening posts/emails. We have maintained regular communication with Campus Community Police regarding these posts. If Black-identifying law students wish to have legal representation in terms of making complaints or statements to Campus Police or the Windsor Police Service regarding hateful or threatening communications they have received, the law school can resource and refer to independent legal advice and representation. The Faculty of Law has established a roster of lawyers in this regard.

Due to the pandemic, classes and extra-curricular activities moved primarily online for the Fall semester. Campus climate issues relating to anti-Black racism, intersectional and other forms of discrimination, and bullying were particularly manifest in this online environment. An independent review of these online and other issues, with a particular focus on ABR, will be commissioned. Consultations on the scope of the review (and identifying a reviewer and reporting protocol) were completed by Associate Dean L. Jacobs and alum (and member of the ABR Committee) Nashara Peart in the Fall semester.

We have sought to bolster our student services for Black-identifying law students. A dedicated clinical therapist position to support Black-identifying students was created in the spring of 2020 and formalized in the fall. A careers counsellor to, as an explicit part of their mandate, assist students from equity-seeking communities was also hired to bolster our career services.

We do not see money as a means of replacing the ABR work that needs to be done. We would like, however, to be able to provide direct financial assistance to Black-identifying students through scholarships to recognize the differential impacts of the pandemic on BIPOC communities and the burdens on our Black-identifying students from campus climate issues. In the Fall, we allocated $100,000 in new financial support for Black students. $50,000 in bursaries will be released this term for current students and $50,000 in admissions scholarships have been established. These bursaries also honour Thora Ellis Espinet (a 1982 grad and one of the first Black women lawyers in Ontario).

It is clear that we need a better set of policies to tackle ABR and other equity issues. A guide for guest speakers was created in the spring of 2020 and we will be consulting further on the contents of a zero-tolerance statement and a syllabus statement on ABR. A dedicated ABR page on our website will be maintained with these policies and other statements and resources at the Faculty on ABR, including from the ABR Committee. Reform of the non-academic misconduct process is needed. Faculty colleagues have proposed a motion that non-academic misconduct be returned to the law school and this will be addressed in early 2021.

In the summer of 2020, Windsor Law’s faculty and staff received training on ABR and on supporting Black-identifying students in the online environment. This training was provided by Tomee Sojourner-Campbell. This is in addition to other sessions provided for faculty and staff, training at our clinics, and the creation of a handbook on inclusion practices for staff. Sessional instructors have also been provided with ABR resources. We will seek to expand the range and coverage of ABR training in the new year.

The University has announced that it will be hiring 12 additional Black-identifying professors over the next couple of years. Law’s interest in participating in this initiative has been expressed and additional consultation on how we engage in this hiring process will be required. Last year, full-time faculty job postings were sent to the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers for distribution and invitations for sessional applications were widely distributed with language explicitly welcoming applications from Black-identifying applicants. This should be a built-in practice for future faculty hiring. Staff hiring should similarly be approached with an anti-racist lens, including in job postings.

This is not of course an exhaustive list of ABR initiatives and issues that we need to tackle as a community. Among other things, we will provide updates on recognizing and supporting the work of BIPOC faculty, enhancing courses with ABR content, regularising a speaker series with Black-identifying scholars, and honouring the African-Canadian contributions to our law school and the legal community in the renovated building. We welcome feedback on these points and further suggestions on how we can move forward on ABR issues as a law school community.

Dean Christopher Waters

Associate Dean Beverly Jacobs

Associate Dean Laverne Jacobs

To learn more about the University of Windsor's anti-Black racism initiatives, please click here.