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, four public "listening sessions" were hosted in the atrium of the International & Graduate Affairs Building (IGAB) for students, faculty and staff to talk about their experiences with racism on campus and to offer suggestions for how Western might build a more inclusive and safe environment for all members of the campus community. Additional listening sessions are also being scheduled for student groups that have requested an opportunity to meet with members of the ARWG. So far, these groups include the Active Minds Club (February 28), Indigenous Student Centre (March 4 from 11 am to 1 pm in WSSB, Room 2100), the African Students Association, Black Students Association and Caribbean Students Association (March 5), and Ethnocultural Support Services (March 12).

If you would like to participate in one of these opportunities, or if you are associated with a group or club that would like to meet with the ARWG, please email us at

If you would prefer to share your thoughts in writing, submissions to the ARWG are welcomed 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. 


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