Today, 25 May 2021, marks one year since the shocking murder of George Floyd.
Following his tragic death and in the context of social movements highlighting racism across institutions, and calling for transformation, our Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Ian White instituted a Race Equality Taskforce to enhance racial equality within our own University.
I wanted to mark today by updating our community on the work that has been taking place since I took up the role as Head of the Taskforce in December 2020.
My first task was to listen to our community, to build trust, and understand different experiences of racism, and how this interacts with class, gender, sexuality and disability. My second task was to review structures and processes, following live cases of how racial prejudice is experienced and investigating ways to enhance our support. The third was to highlight existing work on racial equity to both acknowledge, and develop synergies with this work.
I have a strong foundation to build on, as staff and students are already involved in inspirational initiatives. Mechanisms to report racist incidences and to gain support are in place. The Black Students’ Network Wellbeing Programme is highly valued and the ‘Be the Change’ initiative supporting staff and students to address racism and other forms of harassment is being launched. There are also a number of actions being taken in our staff recruitment practice to increase the diversity of applicants and appointees. This includes improved training for recruiting managers, changes to language used in adverts and job descriptions, changes to how we shortlist (including anonymised shortlisting) and better monitoring of outcomes.
In addition, Alex Butler has been appointed as Executive Chair with an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) brief, and sits on the University Executive Board.
ED&I training for staff and students, including against unconscious bias, is being implemented and students and staff are engaging in decolonising the curriculum. The Gold Scholarship Programme has attracted and supported a diverse range of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the new Target Bath programme will recruit and support students of Black African and Caribbean heritage. Elevate, a leadership and development programme for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women has been piloted. I am also hugely inspired by work on diversity and inclusion across the University including in the ED&I core team and network, in The SU, on Athena Swan, in DECkNO and in Kaleidoscope and in societies including the Staff Network of Colour, the Student Anti-Racist Action Group, and staff and student disability support groups.
The terms of reference for the taskforce have been agreed by the University Executive Board, and membership will be broadly representative. An invitation to all staff and students wishing to join advisory groups on specific themes will be sent out shortly to harness the energy of everyone who wishes to contribute and to widen our knowledge base and perspectives. The taskforce will synergise and build on activities, identify barriers and produce recommendations to improve the recruitment, experience, progression, and sense of belonging of staff and students of colour.
A series of seminars and events will also be co-hosted to explore issues around race equality. For example, I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a fascinating seminar co-hosted with the Centre for Learning and Teaching, showcasing Decolonise Architecture. This collective of students and alumni are pioneering co-created solutions against institutional racism in their field of study and in the architectural profession. This sector-leading work has inspired other disciplines and I welcome invitations to co-host other activities.
I know that there is still much to do and many challenges ahead. I am very grateful for, and have been inspired by, the enthusiasm and the support from staff and students at all levels and sectors of the University who have committed to embed racial and other forms of diversity in our University as a contribution to a vibrant institutional culture and an enhancement of our work.