Associate chair also resigns amid calls to address racism at the school
Editor’s Note: The Chair of the School of Journalism is the publisher of the Ryersonian.
Amid students’ calls to address widespread systemic discrimination at the Ryerson School of Journalism (RSJ), the two chairs of the program have resigned.
Janice Neil, chair of the RSJ, and Lisa Taylor, undergraduate program director and associate chair, announced their resignations via email to all undergraduate and graduate students in the bachelor’s and master’s programs at the school.
Neil announced her resignation around midnight Sunday, with Taylor’s resignation coming a few hours later, at 7:30 Monday morning.
Their resignations come at a time of social unrest when students and alumni of the school have called out the institution over the past month online, saying the school hasn’t properly supported Black, Indigenous, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ+ community and women.
Shortly after Taylor’s email, students released the following statement on social media, outlining their demands.
“In the face of performative actions, meaningless sentiments and prejudiced behaviour, marginalized students consistently feel silenced when trying to raise these issues behind closed doors,” the statement reads. “The administration fails to understand that leaves students ill-prepared for and unsupported in the journalism industry, as well as unequipped to tackle systemic discrimination in their reporting and in their lives.”
Neil’s decision to resign from her position in the midst of the semester has been a first for FCAD dean Charles Falzon. “I am not sure if this has ever happened before, but it is the first time with me as dean,” he wrote in an email to the Ryersonian.
The 17-page open letter from current students and alumni contains a detailed list of demands, with calls to diversify faculty and administration at the school — including in the hiring committees. It also adds demands for the school to be more well-equipped to deal with mental health concerns and make courses focused on reporting on certain marginalized communities mandatory for students of the program, rather than electives.
A growing list of 16 testimonials by students is also included in the statement to highlight the impacts that the school’s policies have had on marginalized students and their experiences in the program. Some of these testimonials mention suicide, sexual assault and violence, racism, Islamophobia and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.
According to Falzon, the school of journalism will begin its search for a new chair soon and, in the meantime, appoint an interim chair. Falzon did not indicate any specifics on how this hiring process would occur.
In a letter sent out to students of the RSJ on Tuesday night, Falzon said that he will be supporting the journalism faculty and staff to develop a results-oriented action plan and in the broad search for the next chair of the school.
“Such leadership will be experienced, innovative and passionate about the field (of journalism) and will also have a lived experience that helps them understand the challenges of marginalized students and foster an environment where they can thrive,” he wrote.
The action plan will commit to including more regular offerings of courses related to diversity in journalism, equity training for faculty and staff and establishing an equity task force, he added.
Currently, 206 students and alumni of the school have signed the list of demands. Other signatories are the journalism course union, seven independent student-led campus publications, the [ ] Review of Journalism 2020-2021 masthead class and 61 non-RSJ-affiliated individuals and institutions.
Neil will remain in her position until a hiring transition for a new chair has started. She will then step down and continue her role as an associate professor at the school. She also took to Twitter to announce her resignation.
Some professional news: I’ve spent the last 5 yrs as chair @RSJNow. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have led this top journalism school & thankful to my fellow academic leaders. Although still lots to be done, I'm proud to have helped so many students get their start.— Janice Neil (@JaniceJourno) March 8, 2021
It is unclear whether Taylor will be a member of the faculty at the school.