By Nihan Siddiqi
Ryerson University is introducing a new Black Studies minor in the 2022-23 academic year, the school announced on Oct. 21.
The minor will allow students to discover and learn about Black history and culture, while dissecting the ideologies of anti-Black racism.
In an interview with The Eyeopener, Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi said the minor will allow students to discuss topics such as “Black resistance to oppression and exploitation, and political strategies and tactics Black activists and allies use to counter systemic and institutionalized oppression in the fight of social justice.”
“A more inclusive environment is super important during times where crimes against people of colour are so common”
The minor itself will initially consist of courses run by 13 departments and schools within the Faculty of Arts, The Creative School and the Ted Rogers School of Management.
Minors of this nature have been introduced in many other universities. For example, the Black Studies minor at Dalhousie University, which was the first minor of its kind in Canada, was introduced in 2016.
One of the main goals for minors like this one is to “make it easier for students to meet other students with similar interests and help foster a sense of belonging within the university and within a larger community of Black scholarship,” said Anne-Marie Lee-Loy, professor and chair of the English department at Ryerson.
Rajneet Farma, a first-year politics and governance student at Ryerson, said she believes that the introduction of a minor focused on Black studies and even other minors related to different cultural histories and racialized issues could lead to a more inclusive atmosphere.
“A more inclusive environment is super important especially during times where crimes against people of colour are so common,” said Farma.
“With a minor fully focused on Black studies, it showcases attention and acknowledgement of Black history and culture, but also the hardships that Black Canadians face.”
Canadian universities have been trying to fill the curriculum gap regarding cultural, religious and racial studies for a long time by initially introducing individual courses that teach aspects of various cultures and religions, and now by launching minors and diplomas, according to CBC News.
The University of Waterloo has offered Black studies courses since the 1960s, but their Black Studies diploma will be launched 60 years later in the fall semester of 2022. Queen’s University, the University of Toronto and McMaster University all either offer or are planning to offer minors and diploma programs related to Black and African studies.
“It showcases attention and acknowledgement of Black history and culture”
“It’s a step forward for sure, but it’s a step that should’ve been initiated earlier, and it feels as if it’s only something done as a performative action in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests last year,” said Keerat Sandhu, a first-year politics and governance student at Ryerson.
However, Sandhi said despite the delayed action from schools, it’s “better than nothing.”
Students have also expressed concern regarding the execution of the minor and the method by which it will be taught.
“It feels as if it’s only something being done as a performative action in light of the Black Lives Matter movement”
Farma said that including different perspectives will be very important when teaching the courses in this minor.
“I do think that professors that are Black Canadians are super important, but I also think that professors who have experienced life in different areas of the world and that have a variety of different life experiences are also important as they bring in a new perspective for students that could be critical to their learning.”
Farma said she also hopes that “[the minor is] given the funding and importance that other minors are given, even if that means enough professors and internship opportunities and even guest speakers too.”
President Lachemi said “we are pleased to see this come together as the Black Studies minor is an opportunity to further address students’ concerns outlined in the Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Report.”