On June 15, 2020, the University of Waterloo publicly announced the formation of the President’s Anti-Racism Task Force (PART), whose overall mission is to “weave anti-racism into the fabric and culture of all campus operations, communities, pedagogy and lifestyle.”
In an interview with Imprint, PART’s executive designate and coordinator, Charmaine Dean, stressed how this shift in policy begins with more representation. “The first thing we needed to do was hire more Black and Indigenous staff and faculty members on campus,” she said. Recommendations like these are reported back to UW president and vice-chancellor Vivek Goel, and are then carried out.
While focusing on goals such as decolonizing school curricula across all UW faculties and intersectionalizing its mental health strategy, PART additionally launched their very own anti-racism book club this July. The club engages in a monthly discussion about a different novel from their 12-book reading list, which is led by a different campus community member each meeting.
According to PART’s reading list, these book club conversations are designed to cover nuanced topics including but not limited to “white fragility, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Canada, the Indian Act and the equity myth.” Participation in these book club meetings is open to all UW students, faculty and staff members.
Ultimately, these anti-racism book club meetings reinforce PART’s desire for more BIPOC-centered discussions at UW. Though the organization was formed in response to “an explosion of world events,” Dean cited how instrumental feedback from staff, students and alumni was in creating an open dialogue within PART. “We have an entrepreneurial and creative school culture,” she said. “The community already had ideas [for us].”
PART’s reading list includes The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and more. The full reading list can be found on the university website.