By Zena Salem
The Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) penned a letter condemning the termination of a former staff member while on medical leave earlier this year.
The letter, which was signed by nearly 50 faculty members, was initiated by former Ryerson Students’ Union president Rajean Hoilett.
Carol Sutherland, a Black staff member at Ryerson’s Equity and Community Inclusion office, was terminated from her position on Jan. 8.
Sutherland was fired Jan. 8 while on medical leave. She previously told The Eye that Ryerson University requested she see an independant medical examiner before her termination.
Sutherland did not respond in time for the publication of this article.
Sutherland was the founder of the Ryerson Black Faculty and Staff Community Network, an initiative that works to support Black faculty and staff members of the university. The group works to enhance Ryerson’s academic and cultural diversity, according to the Office of the Vice President Equity and Community Inclusion’s website.
Once CESAR’s campaign went public and students started to sign it, Hoilett says the office of the president reached out.
“This attack on her employment is part of a larger tradition of systemically erasing Black staff”
“Supporters from the letter action have received an email from the office of the president offering platitudes about Ryerson’s values surrounding equity, diversity and inclusion.”
Hoilett said despite reaching out, the president’s office has not provided any further information surrounding action. “They have not communicated to any of us how they are responding to the erasure of Black folks from our institution.”
The letter was signed and sent to vice-president, Equity and Community Inclusion, Denise O’Neil Green; Human Resources, Christina Sass-Kortsak; assistant vice-president Human Resources and Ryerson’s local Ontario Public Service Employees Union president, James McKay.
A part of the letter stated that concerns are being raised in regards to how racialized staff at Ryerson are being treated.
“This is an alarming step backwards”
“It has come to our attention that other racialized workers at Ryerson have complaints of harassment and/or inequitable treatment. Similar to Carol’s story they have faced isolation, intimidation, targeting and limited training and advancement opportunities,” read the letter.
The letter also highlights the degree in which these incidents are causing harm, saying that the incidents hurt Ryerson community members and are detrimental to the university’s reputation as a diverse employer.
“This is an alarming step backwards for a community that is already so underrepresented across this institution’s [leadership],” said Hoilett.
Ryerson administration declined to comment on the letter, citing confidentiality concerns.
Hoilett wrote the letter action alongside a few other students who were concerned about the firing of Sutherland. “We think it’s important to ensure that the office of the president and the Equity and Community Inclusion office know that students are paying attention to this matter as it develops,” Hoilett said.
Sutherland is an important member of the community, he said, but “this is bigger than just her.”
“This attack on her employment is part of a larger tradition of systemically erasing Black staff and faculty from Ryerson’s campus.”