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Rebecca Haddad

Arts + CultureNews

New Student-Led BIDE Institute Seeks to Tackle Issues of Racism and Inclusivity on UWindsor Campus

Published On: Thu, Dec 2nd, 2021, 2:05PMLast Updated: Thu, Dec 2nd, 2021, 2:05PM9.9 min read
By Published On: Thu, Dec 2nd, 2021, 2:05PMLast Updated: Thu, Dec 2nd, 2021, 2:05PM9.9 min read

The new Belonging, Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity Institute is run entirely by students through the Office of Student Experience. The goal of the Institute is to create and implement different initiatives that uplift marginalized and underrepresented groups on campus. Its creation comes in the wake of incidents of anti-Black racism and issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion that have transpired on campus in the last year. This includes the University’s mishandling of a Black student’s assault complaint, the racist messages sent in the private group chat of the school’s now-defunct Delta Chi fraternity, and incidents of professors using the N-word in class. The BIDE Institute, which has been in the works for the past six months, officially launched in mid-November. 

UWindsor graduates Hussein Samhat and Fardovza Kusow co-founded BIDE. Hussein recently graduated from the Drama in Education and Community program. He is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Education. Fardovza, a recent graduate in Honours Psychology, is currently applying for her Master of Social Work. Both were heavily involved in campus life during their undergrads. They recently spoke with me about the origins, meanings, and goals behind BIDE.

How Did BIDE Come About?

The creation of BIDE was organic and somewhat unexpected. Originally, the dynamic duo were hired by the Office of Student Experience as Student Experience Coordinators. Their role was to create on-campus and virtual programs for the UWindsor student body. However, they soon realized that many of the initiatives they were planning focused heavily on EDI—equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

“It started off with just the idea of doing a wellness lounge, a drop-in center, and maybe a student suggestion drop-box, but our intention was to have an emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion,” elaborated Fardovza. “One thing led to another, and we started saying, why don’t we just create an institute where we can have students not only implementing and planning these initiatives, but overseeing it as a whole, rather than going through higher administration?”

With the encouragement and support of Dr. Phebe Lam, acting associate VP of Student Experience, the pair hit the ground running. It was Dr. Lam, told me Hussein and Fardovza, who really pushed the idea that BIDE should be student-led. 

The pair began brainstorming ideas for potential initiatives, conducting research on EDI, and putting together a proposal for what BIDE would look like. 

Critical Race Theory (CRT), for example, was a big component of their research. In Hussein’s words, CRT is about “giving a sense of credibility to the experiences of marginalized groups within the dominant social paradigm.” Of the five tenets of CRT, four have been incorporated into BIDE and its planned initiatives: counter-storytelling, the permanence of racism, whiteness as property, and the convergence of interests.

“We’re allowing students from marginalized groups to share their stories, we’re addressing issues of racism on campus, and we are addressing the issues surrounding white privilege,” said Hussein. “The biggest mission that we have here is to provide students with a platform to share their experiences and just have a space where they won’t be silenced and they won’t be censored.”

After putting together their proposal, Fardovza and Hussein presented it to Dr. Clinton Beckford, VP of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. He gave them his full support and the input and resources they needed to launch BIDE. They have also gotten other administrations on board, including the UWSA and OPUS. 

After six months of work, research, and presentations, BIDE was officially launched in mid-November.

What Does BIDE Mean?

According to the pair, BIDE has a dual meaning. “It is an acronym for Belonging, Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity,” explained Hussein, “and within each of those four pillars, we have created a series of initiatives and programs that we’re slowly implementing here on campus for students.”

“The other meaning is the actual definition of the term ‘bide’, which is basically ‘to remain or stay in a place’. We felt like this was a very fitting name for this Institute, since the groups of people that we are hoping to represent are part of our campus community, are part of our community as a whole, and they’re not going anywhere. So, these programs are here to stay, much like the students that we’re representing.”

BIDE is the first institution of its kind in the sense that it’s the first to include the B in EDI. “Most institutions have some sort of variation of EDI. However, implementing the B is something we like to consider ourselves a leader in,” concluded Hussein.

Who Runs BIDE?

With the exception of Dr. Phebe Lam, who oversees all activities within BIDE, the team is made up entirely of students. While Fardovza and Hussein are the co-founders of BIDE, they made sure to shout out all the student pillar leaders on their team. This includes Leader of Belonging Nadeem Makhzoum, Leader of Inclusivity Emily Mullins, Leader of Diversity Sarah Alghizi, Leader of Equity Mia DiCiocco, Student Ambassador Foula Christopoulos, and Student Experience and Engagement Leaders Eillish Coughlin and Yu Fei Qin. 

“They’re all upper-year students,” added Fardovza, “and the reason we picked them is because they have years of experience being involved and being leaders on campus. It will help give BIDE the jumpstart it needs to be known and to grow.”

To Fardovza and Hussein, being a student-led group is important because it bridges the divide between students and administration. Some students, for example, might feel that social change is not possible within institutional frameworks. They might not trust administrators to help them resolve problems of racism and inclusivity on campus. They might feel that university administrations care more about performativity and PR than action. To Fardovza, who has personally witnessed administrative inertia following an incident of racism on campus, these are perfectly valid sentiments. 

“From my personal experience, I was that student in that classroom where my professor just so happened to say a racial slur. I found myself in a situation where I found it hard reaching out to administrators and faculty and professors because in my heart I knew that nothing would be done immediately,” she said. 

Fardovza hopes that BIDE, being student-run, can catalyze change and help fix the frayed relationship between students and UWindsor as an institution. “We want to allow students to have a seat at the table and say, you know what? This is what’s happening and we don’t appreciate it. And realistically, we wanna see something happen rather than going through higher administration. Rather than releasing statements and emails and trying to do something internally and leaving the students out, we want to provide that tangible evidence—the things that students can see and feel and be a part of—that show that there’s actual change that’s happening on campus,” she explained.

“Over the past couple years, there has been a lot of mistrust between the student body and the institution due to everything that has happened, so BIDE can hopefully act as that catalyst that can show that student leaders can take charge and have that relationship with the university and not need to worry about being silenced.”

Hussein added that BIDE’s collaboration with the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion represents what is possible when students and administrations work in tandem. “I think that our work with the Office of EDI is a huge testament to what we can accomplish,” he said, “by being that bridge and having the proper resources and supports in place to create the change that students want to see. While the office of EDI can make institutional changes with policy-based mandates and operational mandates to eradicate racism on campus, BIDE hopes to provide hands-on opportunities for students. We want to show them that while the institution is working towards this, we’re giving you the opportunity to make the change. Share your story, because the sad part of these last couple of years has been that marginalized students don’t really have the opportunity to share their experiences and their stories with the people on campus. So, this is our way of saying, you know, we’re here to ‘unmute’ you.”

As students, members of BIDE also have access to what Hussein calls “the inside scoop” on other students’ reactions and feelings towards racism and marginalization on campus. This gives them a special advantage. “We see what students are saying on social media, their opinions and their criticisms in regards to what the institution is doing,” he said, “so we can get a better idea of what they would prefer in regards to justice on campus.”

What Initiatives Does BIDE Have in the Works?

The initiatives that BIDE has planned are many, but the ones that Hussein and Fardovza are currently most excited about are the Wellness Lounge and Culture Lab. 

“One of the biggest initiatives that we currently have under way is the grand opening of our Wellness lounge,” said Hussein. “It’s going to be a space where students just study or hang out with their friends in an environment that’s calming and relaxing. We do recognize that some students might not be comfortable working in a place that’s as crowded as Leddy West or the CAW, so we wanted to create a space where they can study in a calming environment where they’re able to focus and kind of just unwind after a long day of being on campus.”

The Wellness Lounge will be located in Dillon Hall, Room 252. It is currently undergoing renovation and is slated to open in January. 

Fardovza struggled a bit more to pick her favorite. “Oh, that’s such a hard question. It’s like asking a parent who’s their favorite kid,” she joked. “I have many, but I will say that the one that I’m looking forward to the most is the Culture Lab, where students can come to BIDE with their own personal ideas for initiatives and we can help bring them to life. We can help implement a workshop, an event, a public speaking event, or whatever the case may be, to speak on whatever issues or topics that they are passionate about. There are a lot of very passionate, driven students, but they may not have leadership experience or necessarily know who to talk to. They might not know how to access booking space, or get catering, or reach out to speakers. So, using BIDE’s resources, the help of our BIDE student leaders and pillar leaders, our office, and everything that we can offer them, we can help bring their ideas to life.”

“Students can submit an event proposal form,” added Hussein, “and so long as it’s aligned with one of our pillars, BIDE will fully fund the event and promote it, and provide the space to the student, as long as they plan it and facilitate it. That’s kind of our way of saying, you know, be the change that you want to see.”

The BIDE team has already launched the Culture Lab and will soon begin promoting it to student groups on campus. Come Winter, they expect initiatives to start pouring in. 

As Fardovza, Hussein, and the rest of the BIDE team get things up and running, they acknowledge the ever-evolving nature of the Institute.

“There is always room to grow and we are ready to hear students out and listen to what work needs to be done on our end and how we can support them,” said Hussein. 

“In a perfect world, one day BIDE might not even be a thing anymore, because we don’t need it anymore,” concluded Fardovza. “Realistically, that won’t happen for a very long time, but until then, we want to make sure that students know that BIDE is here to stay.”

You can check out BIDE’s newly-launched website here and follow BIDE on Instagram here.

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About Rebecca Haddad

Rebecca Haddad is an undergraduate student at the University of Windsor pursuing a double-major in French Studies and Political Science along with a minor in English Language and Literature. She is not quite sure what her future holds, but she hopes that her career will allow her to explore her varied interests in languages, art, politics, social justice, journalism, and social media.