By Lidia Abraha and Zena Salem
Ryerson’s Black Liberation Collective (BLC) is calling out the school’s compliance with Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s policy on free expression on campus.
The BLC put up posters around the campus of Ford in bed with Ryerson-branded sheets and of Ford and Eggy the Ram holding up a banner that bears the words “anti-Black, anti-Native, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism.”
On Nov. 5, members of the BLC also gathered on Gould Street to protest what they call a “gag order policy.” Flyers were also handed out encouraging students to get in touch with admin to advocate against the policy. At the end of August, Doug Ford announced that post-secondary institutions have to create a free speech policy that meets a standard laid out by the government. The province said universities that don’t comply could face operational funding cuts.
“The graphics are made to make students [ask] what is happening here,” said Josh Lamers, the co-founder of the BLC.
The BLC made a list of demands to hold Ryerson administration accountable for their compliance with Ford’s freedom of expression policy, which they believe would impose limits on student activism.
Ryerson’s draft statement on free speech states community members “may not obstruct or interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject.” The wording has previously been criticized by Socialist Fightback at Ryerson as being too vague, dangerously open to interpretation and “anti-protest.”
BLC also emphasized the lack of action from the Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) office in standing up against Ford’s policies.
In an open letter to Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi posted to their Facebook page, the BLC wrote “[Vice-president of equity and community inclusion] Denise O’Neil Green said during Social Justice Week that it’s hard to speak out, but we must. Well, it seems Ryerson doesn’t actually believe that because what you’d rather do is spend your energy and resources making it near impossible to effectively mobilize, instead of effectively mobilizing yourselves against Doug Ford.”
The statement continued, “…you want to dress up yourself and this university in the language of ‘social justice’ and ‘equity and inclusion,’ language stolen from those of us who are on the ground actually doing the work.”
Lamers said Ryerson’s lack of response in protecting students is unacceptable. “[The Ford government] already pulled [funding for] the Brampton campus. They don’t care about Ryerson, so why does Ryerson continue to think they’re going to benefit from being in bed with Ford?” he said.
Lamers added that Ryerson has not been proactive when it comes to social justice work on campus, “Ryerson has never been proactive in thinking about Black, Indigenous, Queer and Trans* students, staff and faculty,” he said. “This university has always progressed only because of student activism.”
The BLC mentioned the university’s partnership with the Toronto Police Services as a past example of lack of community consultation by Ryerson administration and students in their statement. He mentions that the ECI hasn’t done enough to advocate for students on this account.
“Their job is supposed to be enforcing equity, community and inclusion. Inclusion doesn’t mean we’re supposed to have the Jordan Peterson’s, Lindsay Shepherds, and Doug Fords on our campus, debating things like the holocaust, rape, freedom of expression and gender identities,” said Lamers.
The Black Liberation Collective plans to attend today’s Senate meeting to approve the policy.