Op-ed: How student groups foster inclusivity and equity

WRiSC co-presidents on demonstrating difference and celebrating excellence
SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

The Woodsworth Racialized Students’ Collective (WRiSC) was founded in 2018 and intends to serve racialized students by fostering a space where racial injustices can be discussed, both at Woodsworth College and with the general University of Toronto community. Prior to WRiSC’s existence, Woodsworth did not have an organization that specifically focused on advocating for racialized experiences, which was one of many reasons for its creation.

WRiSC is an organization on campus that works toward spotlighting racialized experiences and serving the U of T community through an equity perspective.

This February, WRiSC collaboratively presented its major initiative for this semester. Working with the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), we administered the Realities of U of T campaign followed by an event titled Inequality Examined, Discrimination Discovered, Privilege Present. On February 11 at Hart House, students exhibited their work that fell under the broad category of social inequality.

The objective of the Realities of U of T campaign is to render visible experiences of racism, and other forms of discrimination, that U of T students have encountered throughout their lives — either during their time at U of T or prior to their enrollment. As a second component of the campaign, we wanted to inform students of mental health resources that are available, in case they may need them as a result of racism, or for an alternative reason. Thus, each of our posts included the link to the UTSU’s mental health resources list on their website.

Although our club is focused on spotlighting the racialized experiences, we want to promote and emphasize intersectionality, and we always invite students to share experiences they may have had based on multiple dimensions of their identity. We worked with the UTSU to provide a platform for students to share their work  — such as academic papers, artworks, and short stories — through our exhibit at Hart House on February 11.

We strongly believe that there is not enough emphasis on the work students produce as a contribution to the dismantling of colonialism and other societal structures that negatively impact marginalized communities. There are some students on this campus whose classes and coursework do not even discuss the ways that societal structures affect populations in different ways. We believe that every student, and every individual, should have the opportunity to learn about perspectives that may differ from their own.

Moving forward, WRiSC hopes to increase its presence at Woodsworth, and the wider campus, through collaborative events targeted at the student body. For any students who are interested in attending our events, we recommend liking our Facebook page, “/wrisc,” and following us on Instagram at “@wrisc_uoft,” as these are our main platforms of information. Students who would like to get involved with the club can email wrisc@mywcsa.com and stay tuned for more information regarding our upcoming annual general meeting and elections.

Victoria Barclay is a fourth-year Sociology, Political Science and Equity Studies student at Woodsworth College.

Ali Aghaeinia is a fourth-year Criminology, Ethics, Society & Law, and Sociology student at Woodsworth College.

Barclay and Aghaeinia are co-presidents of the Woodsworth Racialized Students’ Collective.

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