Jan. 13, 2021

Anti-Black racism survey seen as an important step to systemic change

Social work study looks to capture experiences of discrimination and racism on UCalgary campus

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis last spring, pain, anger and frustration swept across the U.S., Canada and the rest of the world. But the demonstrations and activism also brought hope.

“It's urged us to really pay attention and listen,” says Dr. Patrina Duhaney, PhD, a researcher in the Faculty of Social Work. “And until now, I can't say I've ever experienced anything like what we experienced this year. I think it's a wonderful thing. Certainly, it's also been a painful experience, because racialized people have had to show up even more, had to explain things even more and had to take on that emotional burden even more.”

Duhaney, who teaches at the faculty's Lethbridge campus, points out that the Black Lives Matter protests were really a demand for systemic change. Change at every level and in every walk of life — including change here at the University of Calgary.

To that end she's  leading a research project, supported by the Faculty of Social Work, that aims to capture student, alumni, staff, sessional instructors and faculty members’ experiences of anti-Black racism at UCalgary.

Dr. Patrina Duhaney, PhD

Patrina Duhaney is leading the campus-wide study from the Faculty of Social Work.

Kloie Picot, One Shot More

Online survey looks to capture lived experience of racism on campus

Duhaney points out that to her knowledge (apart from a survey conducted by the African-Caribbean Student Association in June) a campus-wide survey on anti-Black racism has never been done on the UCalgary campus.

The online survey provides anonymity to participants and should take only 10 or 15 minutes to complete, depending on participants’ level of engagement.

“I'm excited for this research because there is little data to really inform how we even go about doing what we do,” says Duhaney. “I'm hoping the survey will essentially capture Black people's lived experiences, because we don’t have any substantial data on anti-Black racism at the University of Calgary to inform the programs and services we have, or even the courses that we offer to students. I'm hoping this gives us something tangible."

While many are excited to see the results of her research, Duhaney says she knows others may not view racism as a major concern at the University of Calgary. She points out that post-secondary schools across Canada and the U.S., including the University of Toronto, McGill University and Ryerson University, have already embarked on this type of research realizing that it’s a necessary step to create lasting change.

“For me, it's not about airing dirty laundry,” she says, “it's about being intentional about addressing issues that have been a concern for such a long time.”

Ripple effect in creating systemic change

Duhaney describes the survey as creating ripples to achieve systemic change, and she adds that real change will only come if the university commits to addressing anti-Black racism and responds to calls for action.

“We know,” she says, “that for systemic changes to occur, we need to look at curriculum development, hire Black professors, remove institutional barriers for Black students, staff, faculty, etc. So, this survey is one step, but it's not enough. We certainly need systemic changes to bring about the type of transformational change that people are demanding.”

Those who are interested can fill out the survey here.