BAME Society and
Liberation Officer 2020 Update
SOLVING INSTITUTIONAL RACISM
SHOULDN'T BE UP TO STUDENTS OF COLOUR
For more than a year, we have been working within our roles as BAME Liberation Officer and BAME Society Co-Officers to make changes within NUA to improve racial inequality for students of colour. We took this upon ourselves because we truly believe that all students deserve to be safe, to be seen and to be heard so that they can flourish. Though we are passionate about taking steps to make that happen, it is with the full understanding that we never should have had to do this in the first place.
Student engagement should not be the main way NUA addresses its internal systemic issues with diversity and racism as an institution. Students of colour should not be expected to act as consultants without pay and do the bulk of the work in this. We advocate for a relationship in which students of colour are allowed to just be students and instead provide feedback to changes the university is making or wishes to make. This being said, the following are ways in which we have pushed for change.
CREATING LINKS WITH EXTERNAL ORGANISATIONS
We have stressed the importance of NUA addressing institutional racism by working with professional organisations specialising in developing race equality within institutions. To aid in this, we have created links between senior management and Shades of Noir, an organisation that works with UAL and other higher education institutes on race equality. We have also suggested other organisations for the university to reach out to and continue to encourage the use of external organisations over student labour.
CHANGING REPORTING SYSTEMS
Due to systemic racism and lack of anti-racist culture, racial harassment has become a major issue at NUA that, up until recently, the University’s Senior Management was unaware of. The process for reporting racism at NUA is something we believe urgently needs to change. These are ways in which we are campaigning for improvements:
Staff training specifically on racism to aid in staff understanding the seriousness and impact of microaggressions and help students have faith that their reports will not be taken lightly.
The reporting system also needs to be streamlined and have clear action to be taken by staff. This will make the process as quick and efficient as possible and avoid people being put off of reporting due to it being a taxing and time-consuming process or having their complaint swept under the rug.
A consistent zero tolerance policy is also required, with this being regularly communicated to the student body and enacted.
IMPROVING STAFF TRAINING AND BETTER STUDENT SUPPORT
Earlier this year, we discussed with senior NUA staff issues that students of colour were facing. We learnt that the unconscious bias training was online, and that staff were still being chased up on it months after it was due. Hearing from various staff members, we also understood that this online training wasn’t very good and mostly an act of tick-boxing.
Unconscious bias training is something that is vital to be held in person for it to be both taken seriously and have an immediate effect on the behaviour of staff. It must also be mandatory for all NUA staff to attend and complete, and not something that is allowed to be chased up on for months. This is why we pushed for in-person, mandatory unconscious bias training.
Along with the Students’ Union, we pushed for in person unconscious bias training at the University’s termly all staff meeting called Staff Development Day in March. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 the Spring Term Staff Development Day was cancelled. We are campaigning for the next Staff Development Day to be of this same nature. In the meantime, whilst staff are remote working from home, we have been calling for training in the form of webinars and digital courses by professional external organisations. For example, a success of this is a webinar on unconscious bias was conducted by Dr Pragya Agarwal, earlier on this month.
Additionally, there are currently no people of colour in the student support team which means that there isn’t a staff member able to meet the specific needs of students of colour. We have campaigned to change this by negotiating with student support to regularly bring in a Black mental health professional for a talk and workshop. In addition to this, we have been in conversation about employing a permanent Black support staff in the department. While this develops, we continue to push for specific courses and training for existing staff to be better able to address the needs of students of colour.
DIVERSIFYING COURSE CONTENT
One of our main goals as BAME Society was to increase the diversity seen in our course content in terms of lecturers and resources. One way we managed to achieve this was through gaining funding from NUA for the ‘Creatives of Colour’ series in February and March this year in which we hosted 5 BAME guest lecturers over 3 individual days, one of these including a panel discussion. We will be requesting similar funding for the next academic year. However we will be continuing the dialogue with course leaders themselves to increase the yearly number of guest lecturers of colour as necessary action for each course.
For Black History month, we curated a library stand celebrating Black creatives and putting anti-racist resources on the forefront. We have been in dialogue with the library about the need for a wide range of books about race, culture, identity and creatives of colour, and that these are written by people of colour. Campaigning for change within this department is something we will be carrying on.
We aim to form a supporting group of NUA staff of colour that can work with students of colour in creating a more inclusive curriculum with whom we can discuss our thoughts and ideas and be heard. This allows us to work towards our goals from another angle, bringing our points in their regular staff meetings and amplifying our voices within NUA.
While we acknowledge that NUA’s recent ‘Commitment to Change’ statement addresses some of these issues, we will be continuing to push forward with these plans. In light of this, we will also be looking to hold them accountable to what they have said by asking for updates, time-frames and evidence of practical implementation. Ensuring that active change is taking place and being communicated to the student body, and that NUA is being held to task. We hope to continue being a force for change and that we will have your support, suggestions and feedback along the way.
CONTACT US AT: