SFU from the sky. SFU will be hiring 15 new Black faculty members after a motion passed in the senate Monday night. Shutterstock

SFU to hire 15 new Black faculty members across departments

A motion passed in SFU's senate Monday evening aims to propel forward the university's diversity and inclusion goals

By Srushti Gangdev | September 16, 2021 |5:00 am

SFU will hire 15 new Black faculty members across its departments to increase inclusion after a motion to do so passed in the school’s senate Monday night.

The motion was brought forward by SFU Student Society (SFSS) president and student senator Gabe Liosis.

Liosis said the SFSS was very pleased to see the motion passing with overwhelming support from the senate, and said the move confirmed SFU’s willingness to work on increasing diversity in its faculty.

Lived experiences

“There is a huge lack of lived experience represented by Black folks and programs and disciplines across the university. I can say confidently that I’m in my third year as an SFU student, and I’ve never once had a Black professor and I think that that rings true for many SFU students,” he told the Beacon.

That’s an experience that he said wasn’t unique, either.

“Throughout my time at SFU, I have never had a Black professor. As a Black student, this unfortunately sends a message sometimes, that these institutions of learning are not for us or don’t have the prioritization to make sure we are well represented,” wrote recent alumnus Giovanni HoSang in a letter to senators in support of the motion.

Liosis told the Beacon that the cluster-hire initiative is a “simple and tangible” opportunity for SFU to do good on its commitments to equity, diversity, inclusion and racial equality. He said the reason SFU doesn’t have enough Black faculty members is that it’s been operating through a system that has historically marginalized and discriminated against Black Canadians.

“You can’t remove marginalization by using the same system that marginalizes them in the first place. And so, if we can circumvent that system, and move toward advancing racial equity in the way we did last night, we should be using those tools and be doing whatever we can to prioritize that,” he said.

The motion indicates that the new faculty members should be hired across all faculties and disciplines at SFU. Liosis said it’s important to make sure that the new staff are not hired simply within departments like the African Studies program, but to ensure that Black students have the opportunities to be taught economics, literature, political science, and all other courses by Black professors. 

He said within all those disciplines, Black faculty members can bring their own unique lived experiences to their courses.

SFU’s commitments

The motion was originally written by former student senator Osob Mohamed, who graduated before it could be brought forward to the senate. Liosis acknowledged her work, along with the work of other Black activists on campus in getting it passed.

In an emailed statement to Burnaby Beacon, SFU president Joy Johnson said she was grateful to the students who brought the motion forward and was looking forward to collaborating with them to deliver on the school’s new commitment.

“Diverse perspectives, experiences and expertise strengthen our research, teaching and learning, and are a vital part of being a leading university,” she said.

“The motion approved by Senate is an important step forward as we work to ensure Black faculty, staff and students feel included.”

SFU did not answer a question from the Beacon as to whether the university has a timeline for completing the new hires.

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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