The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union and U of S president Peter Stoicheff have agreed to “collaboratively address and tackle racism at the U of S,” reads a statement from the President’s Office.
In the summer of 2020, the USSU reached out to the university to create a Memorandum of Understanding on anti-racism. On March 26, 2021, Stoicheff and USSU president Autumn LaRose-Smith signed the MoU at the university’s Internal Truth and Reconciliation Forum.
LaRose-Smith says the goal was to finish the process before the current USSU’s executive’s term ended.
“We wanted to have a tangible document to outline our commitments to each other as well as commitments to the university community as a whole,” LaRose-Smith said.
The USSU’s previous collaboration with the President’s Office for a MoU on sustainability in 2016 served as inspiration for the MoU on anti-racism.
“President Stoicheff … felt that this proposed MoU on anti-racism would be equally successful and impactful,” said the President’s Office in a statement to the Sheaf.
LaRose-Smith says that the MoU on sustainability set a good precedent for what kind of work can be accomplished through a MoU, like the Sustainability Fund that supports student-led initiatives, funded by the USSU and the President’s Office.
“Historically, MoUs between the USSU and the university have had a tremendous impact on the way that the university is governed,” LaRose-Smith said.
Although a MoU is not legally binding, LaRose-Smith says that the document is still significant.
“We do have a signed document from Peter Stoicheff committing to these things and I think that that in itself is going to be really powerful in terms of ensuring that we’re holding each other accountable to these promises,” LaRose-Smith said.
The MoU is a three-page document that outlines the intent, purpose and principles of the agreement, specific commitments from both parties and a commitment to assessment.
The President’s Office says this kind of document is unprecedented.
“Despite the pandemic and remote working environment, both parties worked diligently to finalize this important framework, which we believe is the first of its kind in the country,” the President’s Office said.
The next steps are to “move forward on key initiatives, develop [a] process for assessment and identify people who will be involved,” says the President’s Office. Verna St. Denis, the special advisor to the president on anti-racism and anti-oppression, will be leading the development and delivery of a training program on anti-racism for senior leadership.
“The events of the past year, and particularly those that occasioned the president’s two statements in June, determined the necessity for such training,” the President’s Office said.