Is the University of Calgary a Systemically Racist Institution?

Commentary, Culture Wars, Marco Navarro-Genie

The University of Calgary (UC) has admitted to being a systemically racist institution against Blacks, Indigenous people, and other people of colour. The revelation by its Senior Leaders University Team has hardly received any attention. The shocking admission was made on June 24, which coincidentally is the unofficial discovery of this country, when John Cabot landed in Newfoundland in 1497. 

Only three weeks earlier, on June 1, UC tweeted a statement denouncing racism and offering support “in these difficult times.” It was retweeted 168 times and received 559 likes (July 14).

Spearheaded in the Department of Psychology, a group from the academic grievance industry reacted to the tweet a week later, charging UC with racism in an “Open Letter” (OL). It is an adapted form letter circulated on other Canadian campuses. 

The OL initially acknowledges efforts at UC to create an environment of inclusion, and welcomes the new “equity, diversity and inclusion” Komissar this coming August. But it’s not enough. The OL claims that UC is systemically racist and has “longstanding, underlying, and systemic racism” problems. 

Claiming something does not make it so, however. A skeptical approach to these claims is necessary because the OL indiscriminately casts dispersions of racism on an entire community of scholars and workers. Equally important, a minimum standard of evidence is required in any academic setting. 

The OL says the UC is “the home of racist…sentiment.” If perchance it is, presenting evidence renders the greater service to alumni and donors, the city, and province. 

Alas, beside conjecture, the freest form of association and a cartoonish intellectual attitude, the OL presented no case of systemic racism on the university’s campuses. None! There was racism in “Alberta in the early 20th century,” it reads. There surely was, but does it link to the UC today? “Researchers have shown…racism within schools is among the main reasons for the academic failure of Black students,” they say, without establishing relevance to UC from school research.  

In a blanket smear, the OL claims that “Students, teachers, and administrative staff” can be racist. But saying that there may be racist people on campus doesn’t demonstrate that it is institutional? 

In all, not one example of a person subjected to such reprobate institutional behaviour at UC is offered. The OL even fails to summon the intellectual entrepreneurship to demonstrate how minorities might be underrepresented on campus. 

Similarly, the OL does not define “systemic racism.” This absence of a clear standard illustrates the failure of social justice warriors and the grievance-studies subcultures in universities more vividly than rhetoric could. Strong argument based on carefully marshalled evidence has always been a hallmark of scholarly excellence.

In the absence of any evidence, the signatories leapt to the undemonstrated conclusion that “there is need to address longstanding, underlying and systemic racism in our own university.” 

Judging by what follows the racism charges, the OL wants the UC to become a factory of social justice activists “equipped to advocate.” The adapted document offers a litany of requests to correct undemonstrated problems, including a condemnation of police brutality, “more faculty and staff of colour,” and less rigor in admissions. 

The requests betray an ideological desire to transform the university into a political tool. They want to radicalise the teaching and research, in the name of “protect[ing] the public from structural and research racism, bias and discrimination.” They want “permanently [to] abolish the unsafe practices currently being used to educate community leaders and researchers” without even showing anecdotal evidence of abuse. 

Short of saying the current academic offerings promote racism, they want “programming and curricula…to provide in-depth instruction [not education] on structural racism, oppression and marginalisation, and decolonisation…to provide people with the tools to combat racism.” 

The most radical indoctrinating request wants race at the center of all things and “adopt identity-conscious policies and practices.” Put differently, UC should become the training ground for a new race-conscious activist who, in radical opposition to the accomplishments of the last 60 years, will judge people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character.

In response, the Senior Leadership University Team admits that the institution has a “crisis of systemic racism.” The response never says whether the university may be a racist emporium for its hiring practices, for failing non-white students or because qualified minority students are being denied entry into programs or the right to graduate? Albertans need substantive answers.

Meaningless politically-correct self-flagellation is one thing. But when top UC administrators openly admit systemic racist practices, they also stain Calgary and this province. 

 

Marco Navarro-Génie is a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and President of the Haultain Research Institute.

Photo by Soumojit Chakraborty on Unsplash