On January 13, the Dalhousie Senate and the Student Caucus unveiled the Dalhousie New Deal. This document aims to uphold the promises made in the Lord Dalhousie Report on Slavery and Race released last year.
The new document focuses on inclusivity, something that Lord Dalhousie envisioned, though “his documented views on race are of great concern,” according to the panel that analyzed Lord Dalhousie’s ties to slavery.
The panel suggested that to be inclusive, the university has to acknowledge its history surrounding race and slavery. It also gave recommendations for the university to acknowledge Dalhousie’s history, and to move forward as a community.
The Student Caucus, however, said the university has done little to implement them.
Ameir Yahia, Dalhousie Student Union’s Chair of the Senate Student Caucus, said the panel spent years doing research for the Lord Dalhousie report. To Yahia, it seems like the university is only taking on symbolic things.
“There are systemic issues and there’s discrimination that occurs on campus every single day, and that should be a priority over [issues like] renaming a street.”
A first in Canada
Dalhousie’s New Deal stands out from legislation enacted by other institutions.
For example, McGill University has project to bring awareness to racial discrimination on campus. But, the Dal New Deal focuses on student and faculty success, while acknowledging the university’s history surrounding racial discrimination.
Yahia acknowledged that most university policies are symbolic or quick fixes. He hopes the New Deal can motivate other universities to create similar legislation based on their own university reports on injustice.
Despite the university “being slow” with implementing the recommendations made by the panel, Yahia said the Deal should enable the university to do more in recognizing the inequality that happens on campus and in the province.
One promising recommendation, he said, is to create an annual day of remembrance for the anti-Black racism that occurs in Dalhousie and Nova Scotia.
In an interview, DSU President Aisha Abawajy said: “I hope students will see students getting involved and actively changing the realm of their academic experience around campus and work towards changing the institution for the better.”
Even though the New Deal might take years to fully implement, she believes the creation of the legislation is the first step to making sure that students and faculty at Dalhousie can be successful with the right guidance.
Abawajy said the New Deal ensures that the next generation of students don’t have to deal with the institutional discrimination that we have to today.
“I think it’s our duty to do the best that we can for future generations,” she said.