While The University of Windsor has scheduled the Centre for Studies in Social Justice to be closed permanently on July 1st, a large contingent of activists, university staff, faculty and students and community members alike attended a mock funeral protest against the decision made by administration on Monday afternoon.
Roughly 50 people attended the protest, which asked for participants to dress in black to attend a mock funeral for the centre. Participants gathered around a wooden casket to protest the loss of the centre and to rally support. At the time of publication, 1,171 users had signed an online petition protesting the closure, which is hosted on Avaaz.org.
Tanya Basok, the Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Justice explained that in February she had met with the vice president of research for the university who explained that he was concerned about whether the centre produced enough synergies between various research, had applied for grants, and whether or not they had been co-publishing research.
Less than a week later, Basok received a letter explaining that administration had decided to close down the centre.
While Basok and her staff have attempted to question the process and have suggested recommendations in lieu of closure, they haven’t been able to sway the administration’s decision, and in fact, haven’t heard back from administration at all.
“We tried to come up with some cost-savings solutions that made sense because there’s lot of activities that we thought were very valuable and worth saving, but at the same time we recognized that [the] centre is accountable to VP-Research,” said Basok. “We called for decentralization of the centre and we got no reply to any recommendations that we made.”
Nicole Noël has been the research coordinator for the centre for past ten years and she explained that she had mixed emotions at the rally.
“I hope that [Dr. Wildeman is] aware of the community support,” said Noël. “A lot of people in the community see [the University] as an ivory tower, and we’ve worked everyday [since] the centre has been in existence to bridge that gap, to connect with people.”
The Centre for Studies in Social Justice holds two social justice forums for primary and secondary school students every year. Noël estimates that over the past ten years, the Centre has hosted over 1000 students from across Windsor Essex to take part in the study of social justice.
“I’ve seen some of those students first at the forums, then they come here to study, and now they’re working in the community,” emphatically stated Noël. “I’ve seen that progression since I’ve been working here.”
Mohammad Akbar, vice president external affairs for the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance, recently attended the Canadian Federation of Students national conference and explained that an emergency motion had passed which pledged support for the centre.
“Essentially, CFS supported the centre, will be writing a letter of support, will encourage member associations to send letters of support, and will have and encourage member locals to forward the petition to their members,” explained Akbar.
“I’m hopeful,” said Basok regarding whether or not the decision to close the Centre would be reversed. “I can’t be confident. I don’t have much faith in the current administration, but I’m hopeful.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.