UW launches the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce

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On Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, UW announced that they have reached the final stages of implementing the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART). After receiving feedback from the UW community, the team has finally established their core themes for action as well as their five PART working groups, which will be making recommendations to address systemic racism on campus. 

“The President’s Anti-Racism Task Force is a BIPOC lead team of advisors that includes students, faculty and staff who will really work towards advancing anti racism initiatives, and to enhance opportunities, whether not it’s academic or employment, opportunities for the BIPOC community, In particular really shining a lens on Black, and Indigenous anti racism because of the lack of representation–we want to definitely raise that awareness and remove those institutional barriers,”  Colleen Philips-Davis, a member of PART, said. 

According to Davis, the main goal of the PART is to dismantle systemic and institutional barriers with these working groups to create an action plan through recommendations. Some of these areas include mental health, educational experience for BIPOC individuals, as well as mentorships and professional development safety.

“The working groups will develop a framework to assess the gaps and make recommendations. And then there’s an implementation team working. The working groups will ensure that things are actionable and there are implemented and there are things that are implemented immediately….within those working groups, we will make those recommendations. And then those recommendations will be implemented and embedded within the structure of the university,”  Davis said. 

Conversely, Dr. Vershawn Younge, a professor at UW and a contributor during the initial  stages of the taskforce disagrees with the effectiveness of the PART. 

“I don’t think that it’s effective because it really does not draw on the expertise of anti-racist specialists. It doesn’t draw on the expertise of anti-racist consultants or anti-racist experts. Black or Indigenous scholars or practitioners or researchers or consultants… it is bound to be a colossal failure, and the only success that I can see that the university can point to is that we did something, that we tried. It is not going to have a deep and effective impact on Black, Indigenous, and people of color. It just will not,”   Dr. Vershawn Younge said. 

According to Dr. Younge, the university needs to do much more to properly address systemic racism, including giving those who actually experience it, a voice and positioning them to be at the center, where they can collaborate and enact different policies immediately. 

“I don’t care how slow people say universities work, when they want to work fast they can work quickly. We don’t have an ‘Indigenous studies’ and ‘Black studies’ programs; We should have immediately instituted Indigenous studies programs. We don’t have a Black studies program. We should have immediately instituted a Black studies program… Black faculty members are still complaining about racism that they experience on a daily basis, and those who are their supervisors or leaders are doing nothing about it,”  Dr. Younge said. 

Dr. Younge further comments that in July, The Black Faculty Collective made a proposal to the president of UW stating what they believe needs to be done to address racism at an intuitional level, however, that proposal was rejected. 

“We told him we would be at the core. We’re going to partner with other colleagues. Black, Indigenous, and people of color and we are going to do this work on behalf of the institution, because we’re invested in the institution and we’re invested in our lives here at the institution, and basically that was rejected,” said Dr. Younge. 

As UW continues to find ways to address racism and support its students and community members, there seems to be opposing opinions on the efficiency and effectiveness in their methods, especially in light of recent events such as the RAISE webinar hack. 

We need to acknowledge that they have not done what they should have done and nor what they could do. They have rejected sound proposals for action and then they need to get out the way and let us do it right,” Dr. Younge said. 

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