President's Anti-Racism Working Group

Why It's Hard To Talk About The N-Word
January 20, 2021

Stordeur Pryor

On December 1, 2020, Western University’s special advisors on anti-racism held a virtual presentation for students, faculty, staff and alumni by renowned speaker and historian Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor.

Pryor led a thoughtful and history-backed examination of one of the most divisive words in the English language: the N-word. Drawing from personal experience, she explained how reflecting on our points of encounter with the word can help promote productive discussions and, ultimately, create a framework that reshapes education around the complicated history of racism in North America.

The webinar was moderated by Erica Lawson, Undergraduate Chair & Associate Professor in Western’s Dept. of Women’s Studies & Feminist Research.



nicole kaniki and bertha garcia

Anti-racism advisors: Paving the way for change.
October 22, 2020 

As special advisors on anti-racism, Nicole Kaniki and Bertha Garcia are laying the foundation for an interim advisory council on equity, diversity and inclusion at Western.

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Nicole Kaniki and Bertha Garcia named special advisors on anti-racism
August 6, 2020 

Dr. Nicole Kaniki and Dr. Bertha Garcia will help Western lay the foundation for a sustained strategy to combat racism on campus.

Effective immediately, Kaniki and Garcia have been appointed special advisors to President Alan Shepard on anti-racism.

These interim appointments are among a series of next steps Western announced on June 22 in response to the report and recommendations of the President’s Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG).

Kaniki and Garcia, both of whom were members of the ARWG, will hold the roles while Western formally establishes a new senior administrative position dedicated to anti-racism initiatives – a permanent role President Shepard aims to have in place later this year, and one that requires governance approval.

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Virtual Anti-Racism Working Group Town Hall
June 24, 2020 | 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Thank you to the more than 800 students, faculty, staff and alumni who joined us for this important Town Hall.

Western’s Response to the Anti-Racism Working Group Final Report
June 22, 2020 – 10 a.m.

Dear Members of the Western Community,

I am writing in response to the thoughtful report of the Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) at Western. This response makes some administrative commitments to action as we go forward with critical efforts to combat racism in the world around us, including anti-Black racism. These commitments will I hope be foundational in creating systemic change, and setting Western on the path of a more just future for all of its students, staff, and faculty.

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Important Update to the Campus Community
June 8, 2020 - 4 p.m.

Dear Western Community Members,

On May 19, I received the final report of the Anti-Racism Working Group that began its work in January and that continued to carry out its mission even through the pandemic. The working group has met extensively with members of our community and engaged in various other kinds of research to inform its recommendations as to how Western ought to move forward in our goal of combatting systemic and institutional racism.

I have since met with the working group co-leads (Erica Lawson, Lisa Highgate and Jina Kum) to thank them and their colleagues for their leadership, time and commitment, and to discuss their recommendations.

The report is strong and could not have come at a more poignant time.

The events spotlighted in the media these last few weeks have been a stark reminder that racism is pervasive in society. The world is in urgent need for all of us to take meaningful action.

The report, which I will make public, offers a compelling summary of our own community’s experiences of racism. It also outlines several constructive recommendations for action that will help us make the kind of Western we want for the future.

Looking ahead, I plan to host a virtual town hall June 24 to announce our next steps in responding to the report.

Please watch for further communication and details on the report and the town hall.


Alan Shepard
President and Vice-Chancellor

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.



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