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United in Colour

United in Colour has historically been a safe(r) space within the School of Social Work for students of colour to come together and share stories of their experiences in academia.

United in Colour is a collective of undergraduate and graduate Black, Indigenous, and racialized students who seek to create safer, more inclusive pedagogical spaces by providing both support to students of colour and advocacy to the university to improve social conditions for students of colour. As a coveted space, not afforded to every school or discipline, United in Colour provides students with sources of reprieve, guidance, support, and community in the sea of isolation that academia often quickly becomes for racialized students. In sharing stories and lived experiences of harm in the classroom and on campus, a temporary source of healing and understanding begins to form amongst a handful of students that can evolve into a site of sisterhood, brotherhood, family, and community.

Through seeking to extend this collective healing to every crux and corner of the academy, we collected the stories and experiences of students of colour that have repeatedly echoed in the halls of McMaster University. These stories need to be heard, recognized, and taken up by stakeholders and people of power within dominant/majoritarian pedagogical practices and structures to create tangible and instrumental change, which was the core inspiration in the production of our project and, ultimately, the creation of this website.

What is not alarming amongst students of colour is the common understanding that these experiences are not siloed within individual departments, faculties, or university campuses; rather, this is a shared concern across academic institutions on a broader scale. Further, students have voiced these concerns, experiences, and insights for decades; they have been documented, investigated, and proved by student advocacy efforts (e.g. United in Colour, McMaster Womanists, the Pride Community Centre, the Women and Gender Equity Network, etc.), student-faculty collaborations (e.g. the Race, Racism, and Racialization [R3] Working Group of the President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community [PACBIC], the RACE Report, this project, etc.), and research reports, articles, and roundtable discussions.

These narratives can no longer sit in the shadows while the continuous effects of racism within university teaching continue to flourish. There is a strong need for change and a shift in responsibility and accountability. Bringing these narratives and stories to light is a necessary precursor to disrupting the foundation of systemic racism that academic institutions are built on.



About Learning in Colour

This website aims to consolidate information, recommendations, and resources about creating safety in the classroom and within the institution that could be integrated into a variety of course outlines and formats across the university.

(1) Background about the project, collaborators, United in Colour, and context leading to the project,

(2) Core themes identified by racialized students about their experiences on campus,

(3) Guidance for instructors and TAs about how they can make their classroom spaces safer and more inclusive,

(4) Guidance for student peers and allies about how they can make their classes safer and more inclusive,

(5) Guidance for the academic institution about what can be done to make campus safer and more inclusive,

(6) Guidance and supports for racialized students about how they can support each other, engage in self-advocacy, connect with on- and off-campus resources, and navigate complaint resolution, and

(7) Resources for learning more and getting involved.

This website seeks to support instructors, TAs, and students in establishing standards of engagement in discussion-based courses by including dialogues around tokenism, intent versus impact, and how students can check in with each other and their instructors to facilitate safer spaces. The overall goal of Learning in Colour is to develop resources that (1) integrates the perspectives and ideas of marginalized students and (2) supports instructors, TAs, and students in initiating conversations about how the classroom can be a safer learning environment for everyone. 

Therefore, this website may disrupt the way you have been socialized to think, feel, interact, identify, teach, and delegate. It may bring about feelings of fragility, discomfort, anger, resentment, and/or confusion. However, moving through and reflecting on the content and the emotions that may arise is a necessary modality to achieving critical reflection and, ultimately, critical allyship and solidarity. So we invite you to begin your journey to institutional and pedagogical allyship because, as the pedagogical pendulum continues to swing in hopes of creating inclusion, safety, and change, so does the academic future of students of colour. Your consideration and acknowledgement of racial dynamics and tensions in the classroom and pedagogy at large can offer much-needed balance. Welcome to Learning in Colour. 

Created By

Partners, Collaborators, and Funders

United in Colour

Dr. Ameil Joseph

Dr. Chris Sinding

Glenda vanderleeuw

Roche Keane

Fatemah Shamkhi

Valerie Nwaokoro

Ange Bitwayiki

Truman Harrison

Devon Mordell

James Laforet

MacPherson Institute

McMaster Okanagan Charter

McMaster School of Social Work