It is time for us to reflect on our work regarding race equality over the last year since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and the subsequent international Black Lives Matter movements. A key function of The SU is to lobby the University to implement changes and consider the diversity of the student body, including the barriers Black students can face. The SU has been campaigning and pushing for initiatives in racial equality for many years, but it does appear that this year's momentum has stepped up.
Following the initial outrage and desire for change after May 2020, The SU set up an ‘Anti-racist Forum’ to collect feedback and insight regarding the black student experience at Bath. The forum took place digitally on 8th June 2020, with 46 registered attendees.
Using the feedback gathered at the forum, the ‘Anti-racist campus report’ was created. Feedback was collected within areas such as; support, community, learning & teaching and representation. The report illustrated what the strategic priorities for the University and SU should be, these included:
- #NeverOK seems to be mainly targeted at sexual harassment rather than racial discrimination, more work needs to be done to address race with equal attention, resource, and expertise.
- More support is needed across the University in terms of the necessity and approach to supporting Black students.
- Students felt that formal public commitments (dates, times, people to be held accountable) to ensure the work is being done in terms of implementing more provision for Black students, is a priority. Students felt that the University was not prioritising work on ethnicity and that the work in this area should be more front and centre.
- The University needs to commit funding to support anti-racist work across campus.
- The University urgently needs to develop anti-racist activities, targets and a timeline for implementation, (similar to the CAF) with external experts informing and reviewing this work.
In response to the SU-created anti-racist report, the University and SU created the ‘Student Anti-Racist Action Group’ (SARAG), which has acted as an accountability group, giving student representatives the opportunity to ask University senior managers about the progress being made under various headings. SARAG has met 6 times this academic year and has included 4 student reps as well as senior managers, such as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching), Vice-President (Student Experience), the Director of Student Services and more.
Additionally, one of the main actions identified from the forum was the need for more resource within the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion area of the University. Since the sharing of the report, two new roles have been appointed within University management, a head of the newly established ‘Race Equality Taskforce’ and a new ‘Executive Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The Race Taskforce is a group within the University that will be responsible for the delivery of the anti-racist policies, including signing up to the Race Equality Charter.
Here are some key wins and actions from both the SU and University in the last year
Learning & Teaching
- The SU Officer team made decolonisation of the curriculum one of The SU’s ‘Top Ten’ priorities this academic year, which has involved lobbying the University to implement specific action plans that map how decolonisation of curricula will be achieved. Resultantly, ‘Decolonisation’ has now been made a standing item on a range of academic committee agendas (including Faculty Learning & Teaching Quality Committees and all Departmental Learning & Teaching Quality Committees).
- There have also been examples of good practice across the University, such as in the Architecture department where specific guidance has been produced for academics.
- The next steps of this campaign are currently being worked on (altering curricula is a long-term project). A template of an action plan is being drafted alongside the University, and all departments are being expected to provide updates on their progress.
- The SU has also been engaging with the National Union of Students regarding their national-level campaign on decolonising the curriculum.
- Annie Willingham, SU Education Officer, wrote a paper regarding the progress of this Top Ten issue (which will provide more detail on decolonisation work within the University) which you can read here.
- The SU academic representation team also ran a ‘Decolonise Education’ session with former Education Officer, Ruqia Osman, which had 65 sign-ups. This informative session and discussion increased the academic reps’ awareness of the concept of decolonisation and covered some good practice across the sector, including some new ideas on what could be implemented at Bath. This will feed into the creation of an action plan in the near future.
- This year, The SU increased the level of its central ‘offer’ for Black History Month, sharing a variety of events and information celebrating black history and culture. This included supporting the Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS) to run their own cultural night event in the East Village.
- Another popular SU event during Black History Month was a session lead by activist Osaro Otobo, this ‘How to be an anti-racist ally & activist’ workshop had around 50 registered attendees and provided some tangible advice on how students can be actively anti-racist.
- The SU has also been in discussions with the Skills Centre about the potential provision of lessons on African languages – this is something we are hoping comes to fruition in the next academic year.
- Also, Black History Month planning for October 2021 has already begun!
- One of the major themes from the anti-racist forum was the need for culturally appropriate support provision within Student Services, particularly relating to the absence of black counsellors. The University were able to source external provision for Black and BAME counsellors for students through the Spectrum ‘Be Well Talk Now’ service but are also working to improve in-house provision as well. They are doing this by consulting with Nilaari about cultural competency for Student Services staff and improving mechanisms such as referral pathways and supporting students with incidents of racism.
- Much work has also been done to broaden the scope of the University’s anti-harassment work (previously #NeverOK and soon to be #BeTheChange). The campaign and report & support system is moving away from being focused on just sexual misconduct to include other forms of discrimination and abuse, including racism. This work is key in ensuring the University community understand that all forms of harassment are taken seriously. This new campaign will be fully launched in time for the start of the next academic year.
- Student Services also delivered a 7-week Black Student Development programme focussing on self-esteem, imposter syndrome and other experiences of University. This was a popular network for Black students, which Student Services did well to facilitate.
- The SU has been committed to ensuring Black students feel supported by the SU; putting out visual statements of solidarity has been one part of communicating with our members that we do not tolerate racism within our community.
- Several forms of student ambassadors and advisory panels have been recruited by various University departments over the last year, with a focus on recruiting a diverse range of students – for example, within the Skills Centre and Student Services.
- The Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach team have announced a new initiative this year, which will increase the number of Black students studying at UoB. The admissions team has formed an agreement with RARE to recruit 50 students under a ‘Target Bath’ scheme. This will target Y12-13 Black students who would be interested in studying at Bath. The University of Bath is the first institution outside of Oxbridge to make this sort of agreement.
- The SU Officers have continued to represent our students at a variety of committees and meetings, pushing for action regarding black student attainment, retention, and support. The SU President and Community Officer have been doing this at EDI Committee and through their work relating to the University’s Access and Participation Plan, whereas the Education Officer has been pushing for such changes at high-level academic committees such as Senate and Education Quality Standard Committee.
- Additionally, the SU is currently running a series of research activities (such as focus groups and interviews) to determine its strategic priorities when it comes to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion over the next few years. It is extremely important that The SU listens to black student voices during this process over the next few months. Find out more about our new ED&I strategy development here.
Lastly, we want to recognise that there is still more we can be doing, and we want to continue to step up the amount of work we do in this area. Going into the next academic year, pieces of work such as decolonisation of Higher Education and support for Black students will continue to be a priority. We are looking forward to working with the University’s Race Equality Task Force to make our University a more accessible and inclusive place to learn, study and work for Black students.
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