Pushing for fundamental change at Carleton University’s School of Journalism
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A CALL TO ACTION
Pushing for institutional change at Carleton University’s School of Journalism
FULL DOCUMENT: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dLSILA-yQVSJ-HwKgmUW74mXM-BrDoH65qTG23ZH1B8/edit?usp=sharing
Carleton University’s School of Journalism fails to support students who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), perpetuating systemic discrimination and deterring them from pursuing careers as journalists.
The School of Journalism has created an environment where BIPOC students feel that they do not belong, cannot raise pertinent issues and are unsupported in their places of work. This means BIPOC students regularly feel uncomfortable, fearful, exhausted and tokenized. Racist and religious slurs, microaggressions and suggestions that we are unworthy of existing in the journalism industry by faculty have weighed heavily on us since our attendance at the school. Clear reforms are needed if the school wants to be a leader in journalism education, as it consistently claims to be.
The school’s often non-existent approaches to tackling systemic issues within the institution — particularly whiteness, colonialism, and racism — create a body of graduates that is ill-prepared to serve the Canadian public. If students are not equipped to address systems of oppression within the media and in the world, oppressed and disenfranchised groups will be continually misrepresented through stories produced by graduates of the journalism program.
Many working journalists who have faced racism in the industry first encountered it at journalism schools. It is within this context that we feel compelled to hold Carleton’s School of Journalism accountable for the issues BIPOC students have addressed many times with the school privately with no success. These conversations can no longer take place behind closed doors.
Recent protests in the United States, Canada and across the world calling for an end to anti-Black racism have catalyzed movements to dismantle white supremacy and police brutality. We know that in Canada, these are experiences that Black and Indigenous communities regularly face. These events have sparked a larger discussion about how we responsibly cover racism, how we address racism within our own institutions and how we fight to end it.
In the last two weeks, many institutions have been held accountable for failing to tackle systemic racism and issues involving the treatment of BIPOC students, employees and other staff. We are looking to hold Carleton’s School of Journalism accountable in the same way.
Who we are — and what we have already done
We are a group of BIPOC students and alumni, many of whom are working journalists risking our careers by speaking out. Nevertheless, we are calling for substantive reforms and for this institution to hold itself accountable to its history.
We have written this call to action out of care and concern for current students, for students who come after us, and to ensure the program evolves to continually disrupt social injustices. Over the years, we have put in countless hours of free labour and painful work to call attention to our experiences and what must be done to address the issues we have raised.
Many of us have been consulted on the school’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, which was created one year ago in response to many of the same issues we outline in this document. In that time, serious steps toward reform have not been shared with us or made public. Students were not consulted on who would be leading or mediating the group. Hiring practices have also not reflected changes that the school has expressed interest in making.
Students can no longer be burdened by public statements announcing change and consultations that are not followed by action. We need clear signals that these calls to action are being taken seriously before being asked for more input.
The school must take a genuine review of current policies that continue to perpetuate discrimination against BIPOC students, staff and faculty. We suggest that students be given the opportunity to participate in such a review at their discretion, and only if it is conducted in good faith.
The weight we feel
Carleton’s School of Journalism is one of Canadian news media’s most influential institutions. The school’s practices have a serious impact on the industry — and this is why it’s imperative that its standards are improved.
We hope our calls are a catalyst for more working journalists to speak openly — without facing sanctions from superiors — on longstanding problems in the newsroom and to push for reforms inside their companies.
As part of our efforts, we are asking for the support of all journalists in Canada, including our white colleagues, who care about the state of our country’s news industry.
We call on Carleton’s School of Journalism to immediately:
- Acknowledge its past failures in addressing systemic racism.
- Endorse in principle every call to action presented in this letter.
- Commit to presenting a detailed implementation plan that will involve consultation with current students, alumni, faculty and other stakeholders.
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