Organizers and allies respond to SFU decision to hire 15 more Black faculty

The university will finally be a place “where Black intellectual lives matter,” says Dr. June Francis

Staircase leading to AQ pond
PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Tamanna T., Staff Writer 

SFU Senate voted on September 13, 2021 to hire at least 15 Black tenured faculty. The new hires are to be made across various faculties to promote inclusivity and diversity of perspectives. 

Dr. June Francis, special advisor to the president on anti-racism, said in a statement to The Peak, “By voting in favour of this motion, the Senate of SFU is finally responding to what decades of Black students, staff, and faculty have been calling for — a university where Black intellectual lives matter.”

The motion was a collaborative effort by SFSS president Gabe Liosis and former SFSS president Osob Mohamed. Mohamed originally penned the motion which was later brought forward by Liosis.

In an email statement for The Peak, Liosis said, “Systemic barriers have for too long prevented Black folks from getting into faculty positions. We need to use all the tools at the university’s disposal to combat this systemic injustice. We cannot remove marginalization by using the same systems that marginalized folks in the first place — which is why the university [ . . . ] must be proactive in these fronts.”

The SFSS also provided unanimous support towards this motion, and Liosis hopes “SFU will prioritize this cluster hire to ensure its timely implementation.”

Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry president Balqees Jama told The Peak this motion was “a historic moment” towards a positive impact on SFU’s student life. Jama pointed to the positive impact of cluster-hiring of Black faculty, “Learning from Black academics is a chance for all students to be able to learn from experienced Black people about a wide variety of subjects. 

“This achievement is a direct result of Black students organizing and allies supporting. We made sure SFU is aware that we are watching and holding them accountable. We hope the university centres Black academics throughout this process to ensure this is implemented in an effective and safe way, and works closely with the SFU Black Caucus.” 

President Joy Johnson told The Peak, “Diverse perspectives, experiences and expertise strengthen our research, teaching and learning, and are a vital part of being a leading university. The motion approved by the Senate is an important step forward as we work to ensure Black faculty, staff, and students feel included.

“I am grateful to the students who brought the motion forward, and look forward to collaborating to deliver on these commitments.” 

This motion will be included in the 2022 faculty hiring plan. Francis mentioned that she, the SFSS, and Mohamed will be “holding the university responsible for swift action on this motion so that Black students, staff and faculty can begin to flourish.”

In a statement to The Peak, Marie Haddad, SFSS vice-president equity and sustainability, said, “To know that more students will be able to have Black leaders and professors in their department is touching, it has been a long wait and we cannot wait for much more to come — when marginalized folks win, we all win.”