Dear NSCAD community,
All of us at NSCAD are outraged about the murder of another Black person by Minneapolis police officers last week, and by the continuing police violence against Black and Indigenous people here in Nova Scotia, across Canada, the United States and around the world.
As we grieve for George Floyd, we also stand in solidarity with, and mourn alongside, the men, women and children robbed of their loved ones, lives and futures by the brutality of racism.
Universities are good at speaking out against racism, but we are not so good at taking actions against racism. Now is the time for action. We need to dedicate ourselves to creating a new kind of anti-racist art and design university and to building a new kind of creative community – one that recognizes everyone has the right to participate in, and help shape, the cultural and economic lives of our communities.
To succeed in this work, we will need to learn how to hold ourselves accountable – to ourselves and each other. Decolonizing our pedagogies, practices and systems so we can permanently eliminate the systemic racism embedded across our institution and its histories is going to challenge many of us. We need to work out how to do this together.
Each BIPOC at NSCAD has their own story. Some of you have shared your stories with me and, thanks to you, I am learning that the systemic racism of our institutions, systems, pedagogies and practices runs deeps. Your stories are also teaching me how these systems, institutions and practices work to perpetuate white privilege on the one hand, while diminishing opportunity and thwarting the success of countless BIPOC artists, designers and makers on the other.
We need to publicly acknowledge these histories and experiences. We need to learn how to meaningfully engage with our different and unequal personal and institutional histories of NSCAD – however painful, uncomfortable and defensive this might be for those of us listening from the position of white privilege.
Over the past week, many of us have publicly stated our personal and institutional support for the Black Lives Matter movement. While this is important, we need to do more. If NSCAD is to become better and dismantle the legacy of colonialism and white supremacy across our systems, pedagogies, practices and institutions, then we need meaningful action. To this end, I have identified the following three steps to help us start this process:
First: Call on all members of the university community including university leadership, governors, senators, faculty, staff, students and alumni to make a commitment to a formal process of institutional healing, reconciliation and decolonization.
Second: Call on Senate and the Board of Governors to a commission a review of institutional racism at NSCAD, from our foundation in 1887 through to today. We won’t be able to meaningfully begin building a new kind, anti-racist art and design university until we understand our history.
Third: Establish a multi-stakeholder task force with responsibility for advising on the development of an anti-racist action plan for NSCAD. The task force will report to the president and include representation from students, Senate, Board of Governors, faculty, staff, alumni and the broader community.
Dr. Aoife Mac Namara