University's acting VP of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to tackle racism on campus

·3 min read
Clinton Beckford was appointed as acting Vice President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Windsor in April.  (Courtesy of University of Windsor  - image credit)
Clinton Beckford was appointed as acting Vice President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Windsor in April. (Courtesy of University of Windsor - image credit)

The University of Windsor's newly appointed Vice President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plans to develop a strategy to address racism, discrimination and oppression on the university campus.

Clinton Beckford, an associate dean of education at the university, was appointed to the new VP role in April. After numerous incidents of racism and discrimination were reported on campus, the university took steps to address the issues. Establishing his new two-year position, was one of them.

Beckford told CBC Windsor's Tony Doucette he has personally experienced racism on the Windsor campus.

"It robs you of your dignity. It's dehumanizing. It makes you question yourself and your worth," said Beckford.

"It has a devastating impact on people and I think this is something that we don't fully appreciate."

Beckford has been on the faculty at the University of Windsor for nearly 20 years. He says he has seen four or five reports by internal and external commissions addressing racism and discrimination on campus but the university has done 'precious little' to act on their recommendations.

"We've had this problem on our campus for decades," said Beckford. "I think people on our campus assume this is a time for action."

"It robs you of your dignity. It's dehumanizing. It makes you question yourself and your worth," - Clinton Beckford, Vice President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

In his new position, Beckford will work with the university's Anti-Black Racism Task Force, a group consisting of faculty, students and alumni. The task force was established by the university in June 2020, after administration was criticized for its response to the murder of George Floyd.

President Robert Gordon later apologized for the school's initial statement which failed to directly address the issue of anti-Black racism or to denounce the Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd's death.

The goals of the task force include developing necessary policies, procedures and pedagogy to address the issues of anti-black racism.

Beckford says tackling the issue on campus will require more than the establishment of policies and procedures.

"It's not so much a problem of policies and procedures. It's more a problem of people," said Beckford.

Multiple racist incidents

The university has experienced several troubling incidents in recent months.

In February, a person was arrested for allegedly sending racist messages to Black students and professors. Three months prior, members of the university's Delta Chi Fraternity had allegedly exchanged racist comments in a private chat group. The comments were exposed by two anti-racism groups at the university.

University of Windsor President Dr. Rob Gordon called the messages "disturbing, unacceptable, and entirely incongruent with the values of our school and the work we are doing to create a more inclusive and equitable community at the University of Windsor."

In the fall, there were also two instances where professors were reported to have used the N-word in class.

Beckford believes it is the systems and structures that need to be changed.

"The heart of the problem is dismantling the structures of the systems that we have in our campus, on our campus, in our university that make racism, discrimination and oppression possible," he said.

"I don't think the system is broken. I think the system is rigged."

Beckford, who officially begins his new position June 1, will have a seat on the Senate and Board of Governors at the university, where he says he will have the authority to influence decisions, implement necessary changes and have an impact on the culture of the university.

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