Opinion: University of Regina must do more to combat racism
A few weeks ago, the University of Regina was plastered in the news because of an email sent by a professor. The email targeted students with “East Indian” last names and included racist and derogatory statements, such as a “reminder” from the professor that “You must not cheat in Canada. Canadians do not like cheaters.” It is important to identify that by “East Indian,” the professor really meant names that were foreign to them.
My friend was one of the students who received this email. Raised in Canada and of South-Asian (not East-Indian) heritage, they have a last name that is relatively popular in the region they are from. The specific choice of grouping all students with names the professor considered “East Indian” is only the tip of the racist iceberg. This, combined with the implication that those with South Asian names are not Canadian, coupled with the pomposity of “Canadian’s don’t like cheaters” furthers the attempt of superiority — white superiority — at the hands of someone in a position of power.
Many folks who read my social media post are using the accusation of cheating as a way to cloud over the real issue at hand. To clarify, there is an investigation pending and should students be found guilty, the university will follow their process to hold these students accountable. No one is justifying cheating. However, regardless of whether or not academic misconduct was involved, the discriminatory statements utilized by the professor are inappropriate, damaging and unprofessional. At the very least, these comments are a clear example of the ingrained racism that is a part of the very fabric of colonial institutions, such as the University of Regina.
We can unpack the many layers of racism and supremacy embedded in this email, but we would be remiss if we considered this an isolated incident. Sharing this email on social media brought forth many stories of racism on campus. More than 100 former and current students reached out to share their personal experiences; everything from racial slurs used by peers and professors, to assumptions that students do not speak English just because they do not “look Canadian” enough in the eyes of university staff. The overwhelming number of stories shared by students only solidifies one thing: Despite all of the statements, “anti-racism” campaigns, and DEI committees, racism manifests on campus and the university has not done enough to protect and retain racialized students.