Building Black community on campus

Two smiling Black women stand outside on the UVic campus grounds.
Co-chairs of the Scarborough Charter Steering committee, l-r: Tricia Best, director of the International Centre for Students and Kelci Harris, assistant professor, Psychology.

Momentum is building around a movement to build a better sense of Black community and inclusion on the UVic campus. Backed by the university’s signing the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education (SC), students, staff and faculty are working to centre the Black experience and celebrate Black joy and flourishing at our university.

Since its creation in 2021, more than 50 universities and colleges have signed the SC, committing themselves to the principles, actions and accountabilities necessary to address anti-Black racism and support Black inclusion on Canadian campuses. UVic’s signature on the charter is now two years old and we’ve made some progress on charter themes, but there is much more to do. Helping to coordinate some of this work is UVic’s Scarborough Charter Steering Group, co-chaired by Kelci Harris, Assistant Professor in Psychology and Tricia Best, Director of the International Centre for Students.  

“Since signing the charter, we’ve seen several new initiatives supporting Black students, faculty and staff on campus,” says Harris. “We want people to find us and to get plugged in—for support and to really highlight what it’s like being Black on campus and in Victoria.” 

UVic’s SC steering committee is a diverse group of Black students, staff and faculty. The hope is that the committee can lift up Black voices and experiences at UVic. And according to Best, no one voice or experience is more important than another. “Any way that we begin work with the charter must be based on the needs and wants of the collective,” she says. “We can’t focus on what is easy to do or what senior leaders want from us. Ideas for implementing the charter must be grounded in the diverse voices of Black people at UVic.” 

A central focus for the committee is the establishment of a Black caucus—a group of Black students, staff and faculty who can advise on policy and program development. In addition, they’re working to create and collaborate on events and initiatives that celebrate Black inclusion, joy and achievements in the UVic community. Plus, they’re creating a resource list and are advocating for a permanent space on campus for Black people to gather, connect and collaborate.  

Harris and Best are quick to point out that community building and support for people of colour has been happening on campus for a long time. The Faculty Association’s BPOC Caucus, for example, provides a space for peer support and advocacy for BPOC faculty and librarian/archivists. The SC steering committee is adding their voice to a long history of advocacy at UVic.  

“We’re hopeful that people will get inspired, interested and want to engage more,” says Best. “We really want to support one another and build a sense of belonging for Black students, staff and faculty at our university.” 

Want to learn more or get involved? EQHR just launched a new web resource about the SC. The University of Toronto also shares a list of SC resources.


In this story

Keywords: administrative, faculty, staff, student life, community, diversity, human rights, Black history month

People: Kelci Harris, Tricia Best

Related stories