The Transitional Year Program (TYP) was created by the Black Education Project (BEP) in 1969 to provide access and equity to African diasporic students interested in pursuing a post-secondary degree at the University of Toronto. In particular, the program has attracted those students who did not have formal education because of financial problems, family difficulties or circumstances beyond their control.
Currently the program serves students who are under-represented within post-secondary institutions who have experienced systemic barriers in accessing university. This includes, Indigenous people, Black people, other racial minority groups, working class individuals, gender and sexual minorities, disabled, refugees, and low-income women and sole support parents. Says the The Transitional Year Program Preservation Alliance, “The conception and actualization of the program began with students who believed that there were disruptions in students’ education occurring in society due to a white-supremacist ideology that was assimilating, killing, and ripping apart communities it viewed as inferior”.
Within recent times the BEP has been revitalized as an initiative to continue the legacy of rallying to save the program from being shut down by the University. For this reason, the BEP is actively working to ensure that the program remains open and accessible for people who cannot take the conventional route to enter the university, in hopes of having a successful academic career. Therefore, the goal of the Black Education Project is to bring awareness to the many ways the university has made this program precarious.
The BEP would like to see TYP sustained as a program that bridges the gap between communities in need and the university. The BEP would like to see TYP find a new director and be adequately staffed and funded in order to expand the capacity of the program to the Scarborough and Mississauga campuses. At present, due to the lack of funding and static admissions, the program is unable to make any of this a reality.
Ever since its inception, BEP and TYP have been making Black history at this University. A large portion of the TYP’s Black students have been successful within the University’s’ undergraduate and post-graduate programs. The community that TYP represents is diverse and ever increasing, however, the admission rate has been contained since the 1980’s. With this limitation, the number of black working class folks have moderated intentionally or otherwise, amounting in anti-Black racism.
Additionally, there is another form of systematic racism taking place within the organization. TYP has been severely understaffed both in terms of faculty and support staff for more than a decade. Presently the faculty has been reduced from 10 full-time professors to four. This reality by itself is enough to create an uncomfortable learning environment. There are four racialized and/or Black identifying professors who live in a contractual nightmare that work precariously throughout the school year. In Superville’s article on TYP, they state that “The entire part-time faculty of the program is racialized people whose negative experiences as educators mirrors that of racialized peoples everywhere in Canada. Racist hiring practices that have ghettoized racialized educators into spaces of lowly professional status have made them ripe for exploitation”
For many of us, obtaining a higher education is the only means by which we can advance ourselves in this capitalist society. Historically, the Transitional Year Program has been a place of Black activism and perseverance on campus that produces academic results and social change, while experiencing decades of systemic oppression at the University of Toronto.
As the University annually moves from celebrating Indigenous Peoples week to observing Black History Month celebrations, let us take note of the fact that from the program’s inception, students have continuously organized rallies, protests and town hall meetings to make sure the program’s doors remain open. In closing, it is important that we pay homage to the faculty, staff and students of the Transitional Year Program past and present. As well, special mention also needs to be made of the Black Liberation Collective (BLC) who have championed the cause of the TYP.
By Leah Woldegiorgis, Jandell Nicolas and Sheldon Holder
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