I was distressed and shocked by the video footage of the RCMP wellness check on Mona Wang. In my earlier statements, I reaffirmed UBC’s commitment to equity and inclusion and my firm belief that diversity is our strength. Every member of our community has a role to play in opposing hatred, oppression, violence and injustice, particularly when it is directed at those who have been traditionally, systemically, and historically marginalized.
I have also spoken to the Kelowna RCMP Superintendent Brent Mundle, who has assured me that they are investigating the incident between the RCMP and the UBC Okanagan student. On both campuses, UBC Campus Security has regular meetings and communications with the RCMP.
I have called for an external review of Campus Security at both UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan. The purpose is to examine policies and practices for systemic bias and institutional racism, and to ensure that the goals and mission of Campus Security are aligned with UBC’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. It will also consider how best to clarify the relationship with the RCMP to give greater transparency to the UBC community. The review will provide recommendations to eliminate bias based on best or alternative practices from other jurisdictions. These recommendations will be made public.
As you know, the mental health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff is a key focus for me. I have often stated my commitment to accessible mental health care through a stepped care counselling model such as the one available through Health and Wellness at UBCO, where considerable investment in services to students has been made over the past few years, and more is planned. I will work with the incoming Deputy Vice Chancellor, Lesley Cormack, and the Provost, Ananya Mukherjee Reed, to ensure that the resources and support are available to bring those plans to fruition. On the Vancouver campus, in recognition of the importance of student mental health, we have recently launched a search for an Associate Vice President, Student Health & Wellbeing. This newly established senior leadership role will be pivotal in collaborating with students, faculty and staff as well as key external partners to enhance UBC student experience through the promotion of health and wellness.
Finally, over the last few weeks, I have been meeting with faculty, staff, and students on both campuses who identify as Indigenous, Black, or a Person of Colour (IBPOC). I am learning from their experiences of racism on our campuses and understanding ways to address this. An advisory committee on systemic racism is just a first step to firmly embedding appropriate consultation and representation for the emotional labour of our IBPOC community members.
We do not want to see a repeat of recent events in our university community. Understanding and addressing systemic racism will ensure that UBC community members feel included, respected, and engaged, equipping them to change the world.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor