CapU’s plans for Black History Month and beyond

Matt Shipley (he/him) // Co-Editor-In-Chief

Capilano University’s history with Black History Month has not always been positive. Last year, after a lackluster campaign in February 2022, the University launched an all-encompassing EDI audit with Veza Global that is now in its final stages of completion. Its aim is to define clear directions and steps the University can take to improve its EDI practices. Kartik Bharadwa (he/him), CapU’s Vice-President People, Culture and Diversity, has been involved with this audit since its inception, as well as the landmark adoption of the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education in January 2023.

“In a word, opportunity,” said Bharadwa, when asked about the importance of visibility for marginalized communities. “On a university campus like CapU, it’s important that our campuses and learning locations are visible reflections of the communities we serve. Doing so opens the opportunity for students to learn from peers who are achieving their academic goals; opens the opportunity for them to be taught and mentored by instructors who look like them; opens the opportunity for employees to aspire into leadership roles because they can see it’s possible to be in that role too; and opens the opportunity to share lived experiences and perspectives that can drive decisions that better reflect our communities’ needs.”

Too often, though, it seems that visibility for CapU’s Black community only lasts through the month of February. Bharadwa chalked it up partly to demographics: “Over half of Metro Vancouver’s population was part of a visible minority. When we examine that statistic further by city, North Vancouver’s demographics are substantially lower with less than 30 per cent belonging to a visible minority group. Metro Vancouver’s Black community, as reported by Statistics Canada, is less than 2 per cent.”

The demographic, though, doesn’t tell the whole story, and can be damaging to those in very small minorities who rarely find adequate visibility. “At CapU, we’re focussing our efforts on creating an inclusive environment that attracts students to study at CapU and employees who want to work here,” said Bharadwa. “Our continued efforts to attract the diversity of thought from equity-deserving groups is what makes CapU a world-class institution.”

An important step towards Black visibility and inclusion at CapU was made in January 2023 — the University finally adopted the aforementioned Scarborough Charter — but Bharadwa sees it as a mere stepping stone. “From my perspective, no signature on a piece of paper is truly going to move the needle on making CapU an employer of choice for prospective employees or a university of choice for prospective students. It’s important that we engage in fulsome conversations about the actions we can take, the resources we need to support this work, and the individuals needed to execute meaningful changes.”

“There are important elements in the Scarborough Charter and we will move towards incorporating those into our overall EDI efforts, activities and actions,” said Bharadwa in a closing statement.

Edit: the print version of this article states that the University signed the Scarborough Charter, which is incorrect. The university claims to have “adopted” the principles outlined in the charter, but have not officially signed it.

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