Black at Western Alumni Work to end Western's Racist Legacy

Black at Western Alumni Work to end Western's Racist Legacy

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Black at Western Alumni (BaWA) is a group of Black, mostly first-generation Canadian alumni who attended Western University in the 1980s-1990s, during the tenure of J. Philippe Rushton, an overtly racist professor of Psychology, who used his classroom and position to promote his research linking intelligence to race. Specifically, Western U allowed Rushton and other professors to publish racist research and teach undergraduate/graduate students that Black people were genetically inferior, of lower intelligence, and more likely to be criminals and sexually promiscuous.  Because of Western's inaction in repudiating that debunked racist research and censuring Rushton 30 years ago, Rushton's work continues to be used as foundational source material by white supremacists and eugenicists globally, to justify race-based violence and acts of hate.  Western's silence allowed racism to permeate all levels of academic and student experience.  Thirty years ago, we all suffered the callousness and casual dehumanization caused by Rushton's propaganda linking race and intelligence, and the impact of Western's tolerance of a racist culture is still being experienced by current Black students.

We are responding specifically to Western University's President Alan Shepard and the Department of Psychology's recent statements about J. Philippe Rushton.  Both statements fail to mitigate the harm caused by Western's refusal to censure him during his tenure.  Any response needs to address the ongoing negative impact of Rushton's work including an unequivocal repudiation of its validity, the implementation of measures to prevent reoccurrence, a public statement both acknowledging the significant damage done, and the disassociation of Western University from Rushton and his racist beliefs entirely.

  • On June 28 BaWA sent the senior leadership of Western University a letter of response to its past and current racist and discriminatory practices.
  • On July 8 a contingent from BaWA met with President Alan Shepard about the institution's ongoing crisis of racism.
  • On July 12 BaWA released a letter to the press, on social media, and to the general public.

The letters and communiques as referenced in the bullet points above contain a list of Thirteen (13) Action Items drafted by BaWA.  The purpose of the call-to-action is to compel Western University to focus on clear, concrete, and measurable actions, with the intent of breaking the long cycle of anti-Black racism at the University and securing a path of sustained equality and fairness for the future.

The Thirteen (13) Actions Items are:

  1. A mandated clause in Western's ethics approval review system to prevent the acceptance and/or use of funds provided by organizations that promote hate, such as the Pioneer Fund;
  2. A mandated clause in Western's ethics approval review system to ensure support of indisputable, ethical, non-racist academic research.
  3. Recognition, financial support, and amplification of efforts by those who are conducting research critical to diminishing the dissemination of racist agendas in science across myriad disciplines;
  4. The establishment of a minimum of five new annual fellowships earmarked to attract the next generation of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to continue this work;
  5. Recruitment committees to be held accountable to increase the hiring of more Black faculty as well as faculty from underrepresented groups;
  6. An endowed multi-disciplinary research chair that focuses on the study of systemic, scientific racism and anti-Black racism;
  7. The establishment of a robust first-generation curriculum for Black students with resources and networks to support students through the college experience and beyond;
  8. Establish a process to review and redesign curriculum to be more inclusive of Black scholarship and Black studies, particularly in the Department of Psychology;
  9. Develop pedagogical workshops for faculty to support practices of responding to and challenging the ways in which anti-Black racism operates in classrooms;
  10. More diverse representation in marketing and alumni communications to highlight the achievements of Black alumni around the world;
  11. An unequivocal public repudiation of the validity and viability of Rushton's work, and an admission to its link to proponents of hate and white supremacy via the Pioneer fund;
  12. A public statement acknowledging the significant damage and impact of Rushton's work, and a statement disassociating the university from him and his racist beliefs entirely;
  13. Black presence on both the Senior Management Team and Board of Directors;

By signing this petition, you are supporting the efforts of Black at Western Alumni and students in compelling Western University to enact policies to prohibit systemic racism within the walls of its institution.

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