President's Anti-Racism Working Group

Background on the working group: 

In October 2019, a series of racist online attacks were directed at a Black Western student when she posted comments on social media to voice concerns about her experience of anti-Black racism on campus, including her witness of the use of racist language in the classroom.

These incidents prompted a meeting between President Alan Shepard and members of several ethnocultural student organizations who shared their experiences and views about racism on campus and in the broader community. At the same time, Ethnocultural Support Services, the African Students Association, the Black Students’ Association, the Caribbean Students’ Organization, the University Students’ Council, and the Society of Graduate Students released a joint statement in solidarity.

In response, President Shepard consulted with student, faculty and staff groups to get their feedback in constituting a working group that would begin looking at the issue starting in January 2020. The Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) is comprised of your peers – students, faculty and staff members – and their names are listed in the Membership section of this website.

Inviting your input:

In February and March a series of "listening sessions" were hosted on campus for students, faculty and staff to talk about their experiences with racism on campus and to share suggestions for how Western might build a more inclusive and safe environment for all members of the campus community. In addition, an anonymous online survey was cconducted inviting campus community members to share their experiences and views. Students, faculty and staff were also invited to share their thoughts by writing to the ARWG via email at or by mailing a hard copy to the Anti-Racism Working Group (C/O Office of the President), Suite 2107, Stevenson Hall. 


Drawing on information gathered through the listenting sessions, anonymous online survey and written submissions, the working group will draft a report for the President outlining its findings and offering recommendations that aim to address racism on campus. With the emergence of COVID-19 and its subsequent impact on campus operations, the timeline for delivery of the draft report has been delayed to mid-May 2020.  


Three community members -- representing students, faculty and staff -- have been appointed by President Shepard to lead the working group. These co-leaders will guide and facilitate the working group members as well as their engagement with the campus community – particularly during listening sessions where personal stories and sensitive information will be shared.

The working group has established the following Terms of Reference (.pdf).

Working group co-leaders:

  • Lisa Highgate
  • Jina Kum
  • Erica Lawson

Working group members:

  • Wesam AbdElhamid Mohamed
  • Razan Abdellatif Mohamed
  • Vanessa Ambtman-Smith
  • Larissa Bartlett
  • Henri Boyi
  • Candace Brunette-Debassige
  • Chava Bychutsky
  • Adriana Dimova
  • Bertha Garcia
  • Nicole Kaniki
  • Cecilia Liu
  • Michael Milde
  • Chizoba Oriuwa
  • Grant Saepharn
  • Cheryl Senay
  • Mohammad Sharifi
  • Raine Williams