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A group of black students has sent demands for change to the university’s administration.
The Black on Campus Coalition wants the university to increase the number of black faculty, administration and full-time staff by 10 per cent within two years and expand the number of core courses offered that speak to the black and racialized history and experiences and are taught by black and racialized faculty. The group also wants the university to restructure the Ryerson Black History Awareness Committee to be comprised solely of black faculty, staff and students.
The demands were addressed to outgoing president Sheldon Levy, soon-to-be interim president Mohamed Lachemi and assistant vice-president Denise O’Neil Green in a Facebook post published on the United Black Students Ryerson’s account around 4 p.m.
The group is waiting for a response from the administration. “We will continue to document the experiences of black students on campus” using different social media initiatives, said Tari Ngangura, a member of the coalition.
Other demands include changing the university’s name and removing the statue of Egerton Ryerson because of his ties to the residential school system, and increasing grants for black students to support access to post-secondary education.
The group’s demands for change stem from what the coalition says is anti-black racism which has led to the students feeling isolated, under-representated and fearful.
Students voiced their experience of being black on campus on Twitter. The hashtag #BlackOnCampus brought the conversation of anti-black racism to mainstream media.
“The Black on Campus Coalition at Ryerson is using this hashtag to collect stories that often go unheard,” said organizer Rajean Hoilett. He said it’s important to share “these accounts of our experiences with anti-black racism as they have shaped the demands that we are making of our administration.”
The demands follow a Nov. 18 rally held at Ryerson and at other universities in solidarity with the student protests held at the University of Missouri, urged by the Black Liberation Collective.
Ryerson’s Black on Campus Coalition is working with the global collective, a leaderless group of student activists which, according to its website, consists of black students who are dedicated to changing post-secondary institutions through “unity, direct action and political education.”
Levy said the group is within its rights to protest.
“Do I think the campus is perfect? Absolutely not … when there are these types of protests and movements, many times they make us take a harder and a better look at things,” he said.
“They can protest higher fees, they can do all that. It’s all legitimate … I would rather have a society that feels they can take on these issues and push the administration … for change, than to say you’re not allowed,” Levy said.
This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 25, 2015.