U of T’s own Indigeneity, Diaspora, Equity, and Antiracism in Sport (IDEAS) Research Lab in the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education has recently partnered with Ontario University Athletics (OUA) to examine racialized experiences in university sports. 

“Having taught many student-athletes over my career, I have always wanted to partner with the Ontario University Athletics to document the challenges racialized athletes face,” wrote Janelle Joseph, an assistant professor as well as founder and director of Canada’s first research laboratory for examining issues of race and diaspora cultures, in an email to The Varsity

I knew it was time to start this project in the summer of 2020 when Black student-athletes coaches and sport administrators became even more vocal about their experiences and suggestions for anti-racist change in the conference and more broadly professional athletes and teams were stepping up to raise anti-racism as an issue.”

The project came to be after the Black Canadian Coaches Association and the Black, Biracial, Indigenous Task Force of the OUA collected anecdotal evidence about racism and anti-racist efforts within the association and nation, and “it was clear… that systematic research was necessary to document the demographics and the experiences of members,” wrote Joseph.

Joseph envisioned three outcomes: firstly, to find out how to make institutions like the OUA and the teams within it more representative spaces for racialized members. “If sport is not representative of the proportion of racialized people in the broader university or in the broader cities where these institutions are located, we need to do better,” explained Joseph.

Next, she wanted to understand the experiences of racism within the organization, writing that if there is not a complete understanding of how racism operates, “we cannot transform our cultures and spaces.”

Finally, Joseph added that the IDEAS Research Lab wants to learn what policies and educational ideas members have in order to help promote the most well-suited anti-racism policies for the OUA. She wrote that the lab is “committed to learning how to promote anti-racism in Ontario University Sport through education, training, policy change and implementation, and supports for student-athletes such as mental health and financial awards.”

Joseph is optimistic about the response to the project thus far, adding that the lab’s questionnaire already has a 30 per cent response rate. “I am pleasantly surprised by the broad range of OUA members from these groups that have reached out to us, who want to be part of the research, and who have pitted themselves against other universities in a ‘research’ competition,” she wrote.

“The teams with the most questionnaires complete per capita will gain bragging rights. I can’t wait to see who wins.”