Lack of representation is a cause for concern amongst CapU students
Alisha Samnani // Opinions Editor
Diversity can be considered a popular buzzword in education, both with universities and students alike. Canada’s historic landscape has been shaped by people of African descent since the early 1600s, yet Black history is still underrepresented in classrooms today. Black History Month—which takes place in February each year—is a time to bring these stories into the foreground and learn more about the diversity of Black communities in Canada.
At Capilano University (CapU), the Students of Colour Collective—one of five collectives that are a part of the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU)—gathers to discuss various issues surrounding race, ethnicity and culture and advocates for social justice surrounding race-based issues on and off campus. In recent years, however, the collective has been relatively inactive. “The collective has been tough to gather, because [it] has been kind of dead for five years, so there’s no one really in it. It’s been a bit of a challenge,” said Fevan Kidane, the elected representative for the Students of Colour Collective at CapU.
Kidane believes more can be done to educate students about Black history at CapU. “Being in a [Jazz] major that stems from Black history, we did get taught about it in our first year, but in general, there seems to be a bit of racial unrest. For example, most of the professors who taught us were of Caucasian descent,” Kidane said. Engaging the broader community in shattering barriers is a goal for the Students of Colour Collective at CapU. Yet, only student interest and community engagement can make this objective a reality. “We all vote on behalf of the student body to decide what we need on campus and how to serve students better,” Kidane said.
As Kidane explained, suggestions for improving the way Black culture is incorporated into the curriculum include the provision of racial sensitivity training to instructors, staff and administration, as well as increased representation amongst faculty and the courses being taught. “There could even be an event where they could speak to a panel consisting of students of colour to better learn how they want to be taught about their culture,” said Kidane. “It’s important for them to hear things like ‘when this happens in class, I check out because I feel disrespected’ or that it’s hard for some students to see themselves reflected in their classrooms.”
Jazz Studies is not the only field that suffers from this type of racial disparity. White, male professors still have a dominant presence over visible minorities in Canadian universities coast-to-coast even though it is generally accepted that diversity in role models can broaden career horizons for students of colour. What is crucial—not only during Black History Month, but throughout the year—is supporting students of colour in having their voices heard and strengthening their platforms to enact change.
The collective meets twice a month to check in on issues that are of concern to members as well as provide resources for students concerned about race, ethnicity and diversity on campus. The CSU will be hosting a Black History Month cabaret on Feb. 27, as well as showing films related to Black History Month.
The events’ schedule can be found at the Capilano Students’ Union calendar. If students want to learn more or have suggestions, the Students of Colour Collective is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.