trinity college racism

Trinity College at University of Toronto called out by Black students as racist

Three students at the University of Toronto's prestigious Trinity College are calling upon school administrators to address and remedy what they say is a pervasive environment of exclusion, aggression and racism toward Black members of the academic community.

"Dear Trinity College, do better — address anti-Black racism now," reads the headline of a powerful op-ed in U of T's student newspaper, The Varsity, late last week, which argues that Trinity College is "complicit in perpetuating anti-Black racism."

"As three Black women at Trinity College, the anti-Black environment at Trinity has robbed us of a positive university experience," write the authors, two of whom are co-founders of The Trinity College Multicultural Society (TCMS.)

"We have faced years of silence and isolation, and have witnessed a gross lack of action. It's finally time to change, Trinity College. The voices and experiences of Black students will not go unheard anymore."

The students go on to detail disturbing instances of anti-Black racism on campus, which they say they've been experiencing and observing since first-year orientation.

"We have had non-Black students question our place at Trinity — arguing that the college prides itself on having a low acceptance rate and attracting only the 'brightest' students. This is racist," they write.

"Students have made comments about our Black features, suggesting that our natural hair must be 'unwashed.' This is also racist."

The young women say they've also been followed around campus by their own peers for "supposedly trespassing" and that they've been denied meal services in Strachan Hall, the college's main dining space, due to staff not believing that they were actually students.

"There are Trinity students who use the n-word with the hard ‘r’ as an ostensible joke, looking for a reaction from their peers," reads the piece. "This is very racist."

Upon lodging complaints about such behaviour with administrators, the students say they were greeted only with "empty consolations, free chocolates, and being silently stared at as we cry." 

"Confiding in the administration that your skin colour is hindering your efforts to make friends means hearing the wellness director say something along the lines of 'You should give them a chance. For so many of them, it is their first time being around diversity,'" reads the piece.

"Seeking help from the administration means pouring your heart out to them but seeing no changes being made to challenge anti-Black racism."

The problems, as laid out by these students, are clear — but the solutions are not so straightforward.

What they'd like to see is Trinity College's administrators step up and take real, concrete actions against "the anti-Black environment" they've allowed to persist for so long — actions beyond blanket statements about the importance of "reflecting" on systematic discrimination.

"Given the current context worldwide, now is the time to address anti-Blackness in our institutions," write the three students in their piece for The Varsity.

"From our understanding, this is the first time Black students have collectively voiced their experiences with racism at Trinity College on a public platform. Moving forward, the administration at our college must prioritize addressing this issue." 

The young women are calling upon the Student Services team and the Provost's Office to implement anti-racism and anti-oppression training for all staff and student leaders.

"As a start, these workshops must address the unique challenges that impact Black and non-Black students of racialized groups. They must also be largely designed and delivered by racialized professionals," they write.

"These workshops must target the persistent prejudice and biases still held by Trinity College staff members and representatives. This is especially important for those who come into regular contact with students, such as dining hall staff, employees at the Student Services Centre, and student leaders. Our interactions with them help shape our experience at Trinity as a whole." 

The Provost and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College, Mayo Moran, did express her support for U of T's Anti-racism and Cultural Diversity Office in a message to students last week amid widespread anti-racism protests, and acknowledged that "there is much more to be done" at Trinity in terms of building a more inclusive environment.

The say they were disappointed by the statement, which was released before Moran responded to their emails. The students say the provost not only failed to ask about their well-being, but that she didn't actually speak to what's been happening in the community.

"How can Trinity College promote diversity and inclusion when the administration cannot acknowledge the very anti-Black racism rampant in the dining hall, the quad, and on the front steps of their own offices?" they write. 

"There's no justification now to silence our voices. Trinity College must step up and finally take these issues of anti-Black racism seriously."

Lead photo by

Trinity College

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