‘I’m excited to get back to face-to-face learning, but only if it’s safe.’
- the average student
The racially-motivated murder of seven Asian women in Atlanta, Georgia has shown how devastating and terrifying racism is. Many organizations across Canada and the United States are reporting a dramatic increase in anti-Asian violence connected with racist stereotypes about COVID-19. Meanwhile, violence and harassment against Black and Muslim women are on the rise in our community.
Safety isn’t just about whatever the next few semesters look like from a disease-control perspective. More and more, we’re also worried about students facing racist harassment, discrimination, and even violence, especially as we start going back to campus. It’s a rising risk that threatens both domestic and international students across equity-seeking groups.
Our community is home to thousands of BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), including both international and domestic students. Fifteen percent of University of Alberta undergraduates are international students, mostly from East and South Asia. Too many of us already struggle with discrimination, alienation, isolation, or language barriers. Many students don’t feel safe. Some are deeply disappointed that neither the UASU nor the University have addressed anti-Asian racism as a distinct, growing threat, and we’re sorry for that.
Students deserve to feel safe when they come back to campus or start a work-integrated learning placement. We should be able to have confidence that the University will provide a safe environment. We’ll keep working to improve accessible, culturally-sensitive social supports for students, and advocating for the University to do the same. We hope the University administration and community will be proactive.
That means educating the University community about discrimination and harassment in ways that sink in. It means making sure we know where to go for help. It means stronger, more accessible complaint processes, especially for students whose first language isn’t English.
As the University of Alberta starts coming back to campus, it also means having the courage to get a clearer, more current view of who we actually are and what we actually need. As Eternity Martis wrote in They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up, “Here in Canada, we have nearly one hundred universities...and yet there’s no evidence that we collect race-based data on students, so it’s impossible to know how many are visible minorities and what their needs and challenges are.” Over the next few months, this knowledge will become more important than ever.
We want to thank the Students' Council for their dedicated work and dialogue on this issue, especially Councillors Nicole De Grano, Serena Yabut, and Julia Villoso.
-The UASU Executive Team
As a student covered by the UASU Comprehensive Care or Basic Care Health and/or Dental Plan, you can now access Empower Me, a multilingual, culturally-sensitive, confidential mental health and wellness service. Empower Me is available 24/7, 365 days a year, toll-free at 1-833-628-5589.