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UBC pushing to hire more Black academics, expand Black studies on campus

Last Updated Feb 26, 2021 at 1:07 am PDT

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — There’s call for more diversity among faculty at UBC. UBC Convocation Senator Dr. Austin Uzama pushing for an increased Black presence on campus, something he believes is currently lacking in both the student body and among faculty members.

“When I came to Canada, I was excited to see Black people and since being at UBC I’ve noticed the trend is going, but it’s going slow. We talk about diversity, but you hardly see any Black people around,” Uzama says.

The UBC senate passed three motions put forward by Uzama earlier this month. The first motion calls for the university to provide funding to hire at least 10 to 15 Black academics to be spread across all faculties.

He says, if successful, the results will be immediate.

“You’ll see people like me in your classroom and you’ll stop seeing people who say, ‘Oh, I’ve never met a Black person before.'”

Rebecca Barclay Nguinambaye is a third year law student with the UBC Black Law Students’ Association and says this is the first year she’s ever had a Black professor.

“it’s a bit of a mixed blessing because it’s phenomenal and it’s sad to know what I missed out on for so long in my degree and knowing my classmates take it for granted that they’re reflected in their professors.”

The other motions put forth include expanding the awards that are available to Black Canadians – and, as Uzama says, expanding the faculty of arts African Studies program to include a Black studies initiative.

“Instead of African studies we need to make it Black studies to encompass everything.”

While the motions passed – there was some pushback – with one senator suggesting an expanded Black Studies program wouldn’t draw interest here in B.C. and that it’s inappropriate to hire based on skin color. Uzama thinks that concern misses the point.

“We don’t have enough Black people in Vancouver or B.C., that’s true. That’s why I want blacks from Africa, Asia, any part of the world, coming into UBC.”

Nguinambaye says these motions are a positive change but thinks change has been happening for a long time.

Well, I don’t fully agree because there have been grassroots and more substantial Black led organizations particularly in the past 20 to 30 years who are doing things constantly. I think attention in mainstream society may have been directed by our calls for action to the work we’re doing recently but I don’t think that it all just started recently.

The motions will go before the board of governors for final approval but Ozama is hopeful he will soon see change.

“Frankly speaking, we don’t need sympathy, we need equal rights.”