Tackling racial inequality at the University


September 28th, 2020

A commitment to improve the reporting of hate crime, halve the awarding gap and set measurable targets to increase the diversity of staff have been pledged by the University, responding to the issues raised by staff and students during the Black Lives Matter protests.

The University outlined the commitments in an action plan to tackle racial inequality. In developing the plan, we listened to the concerns of our Black staff and students and heard that we need to go further and do more. The plan highlights current activity alongside new projects that are designed to directly address the barriers facing Black staff and students. It was developed in consultation with the BAME Staff Network and the University’s Black student societies.

The Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West and Professor Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and People, met with leaders of the University’s Black student societies during the protest. These discussions fed directly into the action plan, with Professor West and Professor Sharples making a commitment to accelerate change, stay accountable and maintain an open dialogue.

The action plan will be a regularly updated document and is hosted on the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion webpages. It will be formally updated once a term, noting progress on any actions. However, work on those actions and their impact will be regularly communicated to staff and students via the University’s news channels and representatives from staff and student networks– along with calls for support and feedback on the work done so far.

Professor Sharples has written a blog updating staff and students on this work, recognising the points raised in discussions and outlining what the University will do in response. She also thanks Black students and staff for their contributions and conversation

Progress and actions will be outlined on every update of the plan. Work carried out so far includes:

  • identifying a new ‘report and support’ package for students reporting hate crime, harassment, discrimination and microaggressions
  • developing content for a staff training package on hate crime, harassment and bystander intervention
  • creating a Stronger Together learning pack for academic staff to use during student inductions in the September 2020 Welcome period and beyond
  • starting work to ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion is a core quality standard in curriculum design, ensuring the EDI is considered in the development of all new modules and programmes
  • commencing work on a corporate social responsibility procurement strategy, including a commitment to anti-racism

Professor Sharples said: “By committing to the actions detailed in a comprehensive plan, and making our progress on those actions public, we are making ourselves visibly accountable to act on our promises.

“Black staff and students have shared their experiences with us, and guided the University on what our response should be. This plan wouldn’t exist without their honesty, patience and generosity in sharing their knowledge and experiences. I ask you all to track our progress, give us your feedback, and work with us to improve the working and learning environment for our Black staff and students.”

Hera Aryubi, BME Officer in the Students’ Union, said: “I think it is a good plan and response to our black students’ comments and concerns. It seems like it covers a wide range of areas in University life and there are actions put in place to achieve them.

I think this plan is a constructive response that black students will appreciate. It is much better than the university’s initial response to the protests.”

Dr Maria Arruda, Chair of the University’s BAME Staff Network, said: “I am pleased to see direct responses to the issues we raised earlier this year. This approach opens a space for a constructive dialogue with the community, and we look forward to keeping the conversation going.”

Visit our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion webpages for more information.

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