White Privilege Symposium fosters
conversation about race in Canada
“often what students experience beyond
the classroom can influence and deepen what
they experience in the classroom,” says Brad
Clarke, Brock University’s director of student
life and community experience. “Knowledge
[-building] takes place in both realms,” he adds.
Mr. Clarke’s understanding of how student life and learning intersect has played a
key role in his other job at Brock as chair of
the Racial Climate Task Force. The task force
was formed after a 2014 controversy involving four students who appeared in blackface at a Halloween
party at a campus pub.
That students thought
blackface was appropriate was disturbing
enough, but what signalled a deeper problem to the university was that a photo of
the group made the rounds online after they
won a costume contest – decided by a round
of audience applause.
The task force’s mandate is to have stu-
dents, staff and faculty “examine and con-
sider the dynamics of race and racism within
the Brock context,” explains Mr. Clarke,
and one way it is doing that is by hosting
the White Privilege Symposium this fall.
The event’s theme, Academics and Activists:
Advocating for Equity, Justice and Action,
speaks to bridging the gap between two dis-
tinct approaches to challenging racism that
share an equal footing on campus, Mr. Clarke
explains. “We wanted to keep at the forefront
the idea that progress and growth comes …
from the collective work of each,” he says.
The symposium was scheduled to take
place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. It was planned
in partnership with The Privilege Institute,
which has organized conferences across the
United States on the theme of white privilege
since 1999. Brock’s symposium will be the
first in Canada.
Speakers include filmmaker and Brock
chancellor Shirley Cheechoo; Shauneen Pete,
lead of Indigenization at the University of
Regina; and Afua Cooper, James Robinson
Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies
at Dalhousie University. The diverse lineup
reflects the intersectional approach organizers say is central to addressing the issue. “We
wanted to be sure to acknowledge and respect
those various intersections,” Mr. Clarke says.
The symposium was designed to involve
Brock’s local community in the Niagara region,
with programming offered to high school
students. Mr. Clarke says this contributes to
a larger goal “to educate the community so
that it’s not just about teaching what not to
do, but more deeply understanding the historical and societal entrenchment of racism.”
– michael rancic
Academia and activism
“ The larger goal is to
understand the historical
and societal entrenchment of racism.”
Pitch contest blends TED Talks with Dragons’Den
Julie Cafley on gender bias and the cancellation of Wendy
Cukier’s appointment as Brock University president. “Bullying
probe at Ryerson preceded Cukier’s exit from Brock’s top job,”
Toronto Star, Sept. 2, 2016.
Are there different expectations for male
and female leaders? I can’t help but go
back to that gender question.
this fall, for the third year in a row, the
University of Alberta is hosting the Falling
Walls lab. The competition gives researchers,
innovators and entrepreneurs at U of A three
minutes to present on an original idea or
research. As stated on its website, it’s “a little
TED Talks and a little Dragons’ Den.”
A jury made up of academics, media, gov-
ernment and industry leaders selects three
finalists who will go on to the international
Falling Walls lab and conference in Berlin on
Nov. 8. There, they will compete among 100
finalists from institutions worldwide.
“In 2014, one of our finalists won second
place in Berlin. We then had another second-place finish in 2015,” says Mara Simmonds,
communications associate with the office of
the vice-president, research at U of A. Ms.
Simmonds is also U of A’s lead organizer for
“It is a humbling experience,” says Lian
Willetts, a U of A postdoc who won second
place in Berlin in 2015. “You’re presenting
with some of the top minds from around the
world.” Dr. Willetts’ research is focused on
developing a non-invasive blood test to determine if certain patients with prostate cancer
have an aggressive form of the disease.
– tara siebarth
Filmmaker Shirley Cheechoo is a
keynote speaker at Brock University’s
White Privilege Symposium.