University of Western Ontario to tackle racism on campus


Andrew Wenaus and Joseph Marcell

The University of Western Ontario has launched a working group to address issues of racism and oppression on campus.

The launching of the group was announced last week in a letter published on the university’s newspaper website after a student had called out Professor Andrew Wenaus for saying the  word ” nigger” in class.

Professor Wenaus had used the term “house nigger “when discussing racial language in a lecture on October 23 last.

The professor was reported to have been discussing an episode of the television sit-com, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He said when the show’s butler was called a “home butler,” it evoked the pre-emancipation term for house slaves, “house niggers.”

After the class, fourth-year student Chizoba Oriuwa to ok to social media, bringing the story to wider media attention. She has since dropped the course.

While Wenaus has since apologized, students in the class told the university’s newspaper, how his use of the term made them feel devalued, and how it took some pressing for the professor to address it.

Within days of the apology being issued by the professor, Oriuwa began receiving emails that were littered with the use of the word “nigger.”

The emails were condemned in a letter from the university.

The university said its new working group will “focus on the experience of Western community members, particularly from racialized groups, with an aim to provide educational programs and enact systemic change against racism and oppression.”

The working group will report directly to Alan Shepard, president of the university, and will include members from a number of student groups, including the university’s student council.

The university said it will provide more details on the working group’s mandate in the coming weeks.