Human Rights Task Force maps out key recommendations for Brock

After a year of meetings, hearings and consultations, the University’s Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) has submitted its final report to Brock President Tom Traves.

The report, titled Pushing Onward, lists 46 prioritized recommendations that the HRTF says can promote and protect human rights at Brock and create a culture that is safe, welcoming and inclusive.

The wide-ranging proposals are organized into six key themes, and include such steps as

  • creating a new senior position to oversee human rights advancement;
  • setting timelines for hiring a more diverse workforce;
  • conducting a campus equity census and audit;
  • supporting an increasingly diverse student population;
  • and formally incorporating the 2015 Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Report into Brock’s pedagogical and academic culture.

The HRTF was created in the spring of 2016 to identify ways to improve Brock’s human rights policies and services. Its membership is drawn from undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, senior administration, the Board of Trustees as well as the external local community.

The report has been delivered to Traves and will be formally presented to the Board at its next meeting on June 22.

The President praised the task force’s work, and said the very wording of the proposals will help many people understand what inclusion and diversity look like in daily life.

“I am very pleased to receive this report,” said Traves. “The Task Force undertook a significant challenge, but on balance it seems to me that they have addressed serious issues in a thoughtful way. Over the next several years, Brock will carefully consider the adoption and implementation of their many recommendations.”

Traves, who is serving a one-year term as Brock’s Interim President, will be providing the HRTF report to his full-time successor, who is expected to be named and take office in the coming months.

Comments from the Human Rights Task Force:

  • “We’re in a good spot, this is an important roadmap for moving forward. Now steps need to be taken to ensure this report is more than a document that gathers dust on a shelf. We heard from people who were very candid in sharing their experiences, both the successes and the struggles. My special thanks to members of the Task Force, resource personnel and union observers who dedicated themselves to this important initiative.
    — Brad Clarke, HRTF Chair; Director, Student Life and Community Experience
  • “We each have a role to play in being a part of a new culture that understands, respects and honours human dignity.  As an institution of learning, Brock has a duty to care for and teach our students what their human rights and responsibilities are. An important part of that involves being aware of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code and how it relates to individuals. The Task Force report serves as a reminder of the protected grounds within the Human Rights Code.”
    — Dolana Magodime, HRTF Vice-Chair; Associate Professor, Faculty of Education
  • “Members of the Task Force are hopeful that the recommendations contained in the report will be favourably received by the University’s new president, and that the president will provide the vision and leadership to ensure that these recommendations move from intention to action.”
    — Anna Lathrop, Vice-Provost, Teaching, Learning and Student Success 
  • “It was a privilege to be part of the Task Force as a liaison for the Board of Trustees. This has been a thoughtful process drawing input from many stakeholders. I look forward to a university that is more inclusive of all those who are part of its community, and this report is an important means of ensuring that we are building the right processes and policies.”
    — Elisabeth Zimmerman, Brock University Board of Trustees; Executive Director, YWCA Niagara Region
  • “This initiative is critical because human rights are important to student success. Many students are left feeling isolated simply because of who they are, and this isolation can impact their academics, their motivation to succeed and their mental health. Being a member of CMHA-Niagara really motivated me to get involved, as the stigma around mental health causes people who deal with a variety of issues in this area to be overlooked and marginalized.”
    — Andrew Bassinghtwaighte, Career Consultant, Co-op Education
  • “As an alumna (BA ’10) and member of the Brock community, I’m proud to have participated in this important work with students, faculty and staff. We learned a lot from each other through this exercise, and there are lessons for everyone in the report. The recommendations will support a stronger, more inclusive and respectful environment that will benefit everyone on campus and in the broader community.”
    — Julie Rorison, Executive Assistant to the Mayor of St. Catharines
  • “This is the first time the University has demonstrated the commitment to investigate issues of equity. The students consulted in developing this report could not have been more eloquent or more urgent in their demand that Brock attend to the impact of gender and racial violence and ableism. How Brock responds to this report will say a lot about us, as an institution committed to creating an equitable learning environment which seeks to enable students to succeed.”
    — Margot Francis, Associate Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies/Sociology
  • “I believe the consultations merely scratch the surface of the myriad expressions/aggressions of ableism, sexism and racism. We must acknowledge that these injustices are not simply personal experiences but embedded in attitudes, behaviours, practices and protocols, and we must question the consequences we create. The Task Force report calls for a commitment to demonstrate this thoughtfulness through meaningful action that values and respects difference.”
    — Leeann Cayer, graduate student (Applied Disability Studies)
  • “The Human Rights Task Force set a great precedent for youth engagement. I am passionate about engaging young people — oftentimes the direct beneficiaries of policies — in creating the policies that affect them. I was pleasantly surprised that my comments and contributions, as well as those of student organizations, were truly incorporated into the final report and throughout the process. This was a great step forward in Brock’s work to be more transparent, and for students to be involved in high-level discussions.”
    — Aniqah Zowmi, undergraduate representative (BSc in Neurobiology); Youth Engagement Consultant and Advocate
  • “Being the first initiative at Brock University to thoroughly examine human rights in our community, I believe that these final recommendations, when put into action, will assist in better addressing issues of sexual violence, racism, and ableism which will ultimately create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for students, staff, faculty, and the community.”
    — Samantha MacAndrew, graduate student (Social Justice and Equity Studies)

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