Our department and McGill University are located on the unceded territory of Tiohtià:ke, now known as Montréal; the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation are the traditional custodians of these lands and waters.
Land acknowledgements start a necessary process of reflection for us as individuals and colleagues in the shared project of our department. We recognize that territorial recognition is a necessary, but also inadequate, act in the process of dismantling settler colonialism and its ongoing systems of oppression and occupation, and related institutional structures of racism. As part of this process, we aim to better support faculty, staff and students on campus who are First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Black, and People of Colour.
To learn more about land acknowledgements, see Indigenous Initiatives at McGill University and the Native Governance Center website. Learning the history of the land we occupy is an ongoing process; a good starting place is Native-land.ca. To hear pronunciations of Tiohtià:ke and Kanien’kehá:ka, check out Concordia University’s territorial acknowledgement webpage.
Members of the Department of Art History and Communication Studies share a commitment to anti-oppression work and to fostering welcoming, safe, inclusive, and accessible spaces and practices free from discrimination and harassment. We are committed to equity, human dignity, and to racial, ethnic, sexual, physical, and cultural diversity. This statement details the work we are doing to create a more equitable and just university environment. As a living document, this statement will be updated to represent changes we make in our practices and thinking.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
We recognize that universities have been and continue to be sites that contribute to the reproduction of systemic colonialism, racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, elitism, and the ongoing climate crisis. We acknowledge how we are both affected by and implicated in these systems of power – in our conversations, teaching, research, and change-making efforts. We are committed to the ongoing collective work it takes to eliminate forms of injustice and exclusion in our department and throughout the university.
We also acknowledge our differential positions of privilege and recognize the systemic disadvantages many members of our community face. These include forms of discrimination and harassment based on race, colour, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, and socio-economic status. We recognize that members of our community also experience other kinds of discrimination on the basis of, for instance, civil status, familial status, educational background, physical appearance, size, and health status. Part of our work as a community is to better understand how systems of power and discrimination impact people and to develop strategies that address and redress the harms they cause.
Faculty in the department have embarked on a series of initiatives to address issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-Black racism at McGill, in our unit, and in our communities. This work could not be more important. We are committed to transforming the cultures and practices at McGill—and within university life more generally—that reproduce racism and white supremacy in relation to other intersecting systems of oppression.
To address these issues, we are:
- Forming a structure to address equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the department. This involves new service positions within the department for two faculty members – one in Art History and one in Communication Studies -- to oversee EDI issues and initiatives. The AHCS EDI representatives will work with the Department Chair, the Graduate and Undergraduate Program Directors, relevant committees (such as hiring and curricular committees), and student representatives to help advise on and move forward EDI efforts and advise on solutions to challenges related to EDI.
- Attending workshops offered by McGill’s Equity Office on EDI issues aimed at transforming how we think, work, and engage with each other to address racism, colonialism, sexuality and gender identity discrimination, sexism and misogyny, and discrimination against people with disabilities. Educating ourselves about EDI issues is crucial work we do to learn and unlearn the powerful ideologies that reproduce systemic inequities and harms. In the 2020-21 academic year, faculty members participated in a series of workshops that addressed best practices for equity hiring and retention, the formation of EDI committees, university resources and support for EDI initiatives, and anti-racism in teaching practices. These were led by the Accessibility Advisor, Senior Employment Equity Advisor, Associate Provost for Equity and Academic Policies, and Equity Education Advisor (Anti-Oppression & Anti-Racism Education).
- Organizing department-specific workshops for faculty to foster our development of better governance structures, policies, procedures, and decision-making processes around issues of equity, inclusion, and discrimination. The 2020-21 workshops were led by an external moderator who specializes in improving departmental practice, transparency in decision-making, strategic planning, and governance.
- Reviewing, revising and transforming our existing departmental policies and procedures with respect to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
- Establishing and continuing to advocate for tenure-track hiring priorities in Black and Indigenous Studies, and other key areas of scholarship historically under-represented in the department. Our current hiring target areas are in the areas of Black Studies of Media and Technology (for which we have a licence to hire a TT professor in Fall 2021), Visual Cultures of the Black Diaspora, and Indigenous Studies of Media, Culture and Technology. We continue to advocate for positions in these areas, and will work with university-wide EDI initiatives to grow our faculty in AHCS.
- Acknowledging the traditional territory on which we’re located and using a statement of solidarity to open all public meetings and events convened by the department. Such statements name colonial legacies and ongoing land politics, positioning the speaker, audience, and institution within the pervasive colonial practices of our fields of academic study and within globally interconnected colonial histories. They remind non-Indigenous faculty, students and visitors of the historical disenfranchisement and ongoing political struggles of First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities, and they create a more welcoming space for Indigenous students, staff, and faculty and visitors.
- Building and revising curriculum in order to: decenter European “canonical” scholarship, art, and cultural traditions; draw on scholarship undertaken outside of the Global North, foreground histories and legacies of transatlantic slavery and settler colonialism in the US and Canada; centre the work of BIPOC scholars, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups; analyze how racism and white supremacy intersect with other systems of oppression. Our courses will serve this curricular standard, and we commit to regular reviews and revisions of program curriculum to better represent these approaches in student training.
- We expect that our work references the full diversity of scholarship and scholars in the field(s) in which we work. We aim to foster learning conditions that will best support a more expansive and representative citational politics by students and faculty.
- We commit to regular meetings with students (at least one time a semester), to discuss what students need and what changes they would like to see in the department around EDI and other issues. We will continue to seek out financial and other resources on campus that will help support and expand this work, e.g. from the Office of the Dean of Arts, EDI-related Provostial initiatives, the Office of Sustainability, and other funds related to student and student-faculty joint initiatives. In consultation with students, we will create more opportunities for student support, mentorship, leadership and other initiatives.
Below is a list of resources and initiatives at McGill that address the institutional legacies of anti-Black racism and the settler colonial foundations and structures of the university, as well as long-standing problems with equity, diversity, and inclusion on campus. The Department will regularly update the website to note changes and new developments in the available resources.
McGill’s Strategic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan
Equity at McGill
McGill Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism
Response of the Black Faculty Caucus to McGill University’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism: https://www.blackfacultycaucus.mcgill.ca/statements
Slavery and McGill University: Bicentenary Recommendations
Our university is founded on the spoils of transatlantic slavery and settler colonialism. James McGill, whose monetary and land bequest founded McGill College in 1821, was a successful merchant of goods from West Indian plantations. During his lifetime, McGill enslaved five Black and Indigenous people, two of whom were children who died at the ages of 10 and 12. In 2021, we mark the bicentenary celebration of an institution which was founded by and for white men. To read more about this history and see the Bicentenary Recommendations prepared by former AHCS Professor Charmaine Nelson (Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement at NSCAD in Halifax, Nova Scotia) and AHCS undergraduate and graduate students: Lucia Bell-Epstein, Lucy Brown, Simone Cambridge, Roxanne Cornellier, Jane O’Brien Davis, Gemma Else, Ellie Finkelstein, Christopher J. Gismondi, Amalie Løseth, Denisa Marginean, Colin McCrossan, Sam Perelmuter, Nicholas Raffoul, Emma Ridsdale, Bella Silverman, and Alison White.
More information on the new NSCAD Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery directed by Prof. Charmaine Nelson and the Report “Slavery and McGill University: Bicentenary Recommendations” can be found using the provided links.
The Provostial Research Scholars in Institutional Histories, Slavery, and Colonialism study the histories of colonialism and transatlantic slavery as they relate to McGill University. Read about the important research initiatives of the current post-doctoral scholars Dr. Joana Joachim (Ph.D., Department of Art History and Communications Studies and Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, McGill University) and Melissa N. Shaw (Ph.D., History, Queen’s University).
Black Students’ Network
While dedicated to addressing the needs and interests of Black students, all interested students, irrespective of race, culture or creed, are encouraged to participate in the organization’s numerous events and activities.
First Peoples’ House
The First Peoples’ House provides First Nations, Inuit and Métis students attending McGill with a "home away from home," where they can find support and encouragement to succeed in their studies and remain connected to their culture.
Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education
The Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative https://www.mcgill.ca/iscei/
ISCEI is based in the Faculty of Arts and aims to build and expand on existing Indigenous initiatives on and off campus and to help provide a nexus for First Nations, Inuit and Métis scholarship and community-building. The Mellon ISCEI Artist in Residence program is co-organized with the Department of Art History & Communication Studies and is an important means of bringing practicing artists to campus to continue their work, share their expertise, interact with students and faculty members, and enhance knowledge of and exposure to Indigenous art among the campus community and the public at large.
AHCS welcomes Caroline Monnet as the first Mellon ISCEI Artist in Residence at McGill. Monnet is an Algonquin-French contemporary artist and filmmaker known for her work in sculpture, installation and film: https://www.mcgill.ca/iscei/our-intiatives/artist-residence
Accessibility at McGill
Office for Students with Disabilities
Policy Concerning the Rights of Students with Disabilities
The Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE). As McGill’s primary and dedicated sexual violence support service, this office provide confidential, survivor-centred, non-judgmental support and assistance to any member of the McGill community affected by sexual violence.
McGill’s Policies and Regulations
The University has a centralized policies webpage, which makes available all institutional policies and regulations. Moreover, McGill’s Guide to McGill’s Policies and Regulations (“Guide”) features the University’s policies and regulations by thematic category. It may be consulted on the Secretariat’s website, which is updated regularly to provide the most up-to-date information.