SCSU addresses “systemic barriers” in Week of Resistance

Panel discussion, community events focus on unity, solidarity

The Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU) began the new academic year with a Week of Resistance aimed at showcasing “resistance, unity, and solidarity against oppressive institutional structures and systemic barriers at UTSC.” The campaign ran from September 11–15.

According to SCSU President Sitharsana Srithas, the education system at UTSC uses “very white and colonialized literature.”

She cited the lack of Indigenous courses as an example, adding that “even in those Indigenous courses, it’s not Indigenous people who are teaching them.”

Srithas also described “systemic barriers” on campus that affect students, including the presence of only one major multi-faith space at U of T, which she said discourages students due to longer commute times.

The Week of Resistance included a panel discussion on “Decentering Whiteness in Academia.” The panel revolved around anti-Black racism, Indigenous education in Canadian universities, Islamophobia on campus, and lack of access to education. The panel consisted of Cheryl Thompson, a UTM professor, Kevin Edmonds, a U of T PhD candidate and instructor, and Coty Zachariah, the first Indigenous chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“What we hope to achieve from the ‘Week of Resistance’ is for people to really put aside their discomfort and start empathizing with the folks who are talking about a lot of problems that are happening, start listening to them, and start doing something about it,” said SCSU Vice-President External Kubra Zakir.

Zakir spoke further about “whiteness as a system, a structure that even exists in our racialized spaces.” Zakir added that the Week of Resistance is “not only about resisting our oppressive structures…, [but also] constantly organizing, constantly resisting, and constantly overcoming these barriers.”

The Week of Resistance also included “Solidarity Day: Social Justice Block Party,” which welcomed over 40 non-profit organizations. According to Srithas, the event was “An opportunity for not only on-campus clubs, but also off-campus clubs, like labour unions or other non-profit organizations, to come together with the purpose of social awareness and social justice.”

SCSU also collaborated with the UTSC African Students’ Association and the UTSC-Muslims Students Association to host a series of events. On Friday, September 15, they hosted a community Jummah prayer in the Student Centre to showcase acceptability and solidarity for Muslims. Their aim was to create a more sacred place for the students and lower overt Islamophobia on campus.

The Q&A session at the panel discussion touched on various themes and encouraged students to engage in discussions. According to Zakir, this was also one of the main aims of the week: “to get people thinking, to get people to ask uncomfortable questions.”

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