12
Jun

SUSU’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Work 2019-20

In News

We know that some of you may not be aware of or see what SUSU have been doing regarding EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) work and more specifically work for our Black students. For us, this is not about virtue signalling or being performative just because this issue is in global media focus. We are committed to proactively pursuing equality and tackling racism. We know we have more work to do, and we always welcome collaboration, but we also wanted to share with you the projects and work we have been doing to this date. As ever, if you’d like to get involved in any of these, we really welcome it.

We’ve also had queries about what SUSU has done generally about racism and discrimination, so we will list those here as well.

Laura, our VP Welfare and Community, talks us through the work we have done:

Chinese Students & Covid-19

  • Emily (Union President) co-signed a letter with the Chinese student scholars association, the Chinese Scholars association in Southampton, Southampton City Council and the VC in a public condemnation of attacks on our Chinese community.
  • We also worked with the Chinese scholars association before the lockdown to raise awareness of this issue, and condemn racism, as well as raise awareness of cultural misconceptions about Chinese students and the virus.
  • The University assisted those students in taking matters to the police, and we have promoted our Report and Support tool.

BLM

  • We have written a statement about BLM detailing our position and dedication to help. We are not interested in being performative and filling up our timeline with posts that make us look good, instead, we are posting what we have found that is legitimate (for example, there are many donation pages that are fake at the moment because people are trying to profit from this), useful (rather than just sharing for the sake of sharing) and actually detail what we are doing as a Students’ Union.
  • I have drafted a template letter to MP’s with BLM demands that are tied to student interests and I have posted this on my Facebook.
  • I am making ALL of our PRIDE events framed around Queer People of Colour and calling for awareness, including a graduate event I hosted this week which asked people to donate specifically to charities that help Black and minority ethnic people with career and leadership progression.
  • For PRIDE, we will be raising awareness of the Stonewall Riots and how they were successful because of Queer People of Colour (QPOC).
  • We are still currently talking about as an organisation how we can do more practical things to help, but I am still working within the Race Equality Charter (more details below).

General EDI (and Black student-specific) work

Since my term in office starting July 2019, I have

  • Created and implemented a mandatory WIDE module for ALL clubs and societies to take. Failure to take this module means they get zero funding from SUSU and if they don’t need funding, they are put up for disaffiliation. This module was created by a student, with other students from the appropriate necessary backgrounds and representational groups to appropriately lay out this information. This has received both positive and negative reception, with people saying this is exactly what our societies and clubs need, and others saying it is pointless and no-one needs this. As a result, we are listening to feedback and adapting the structure of WIDE to be more user friendly, though we hold that we have a responsibility to provide educational resources to all of our clubs and societies regarding matters associated, and will continue to do so.
  • I have written (to be approved) a code of conduct detailing explicitly expectations of our students, members and clubs and societies.
  • This sits underneath the ‘Expect Respect’ policy which I wrote and implemented this year, which is a new brand for SUSU to internally develop alongside strategy and values. It also lays out what students can expect from SUSU and hold us to account, for example we have vowed to be proactive and educational, which is still a zero tolerance approach. Much of these policies have been designed to ensure SUSU has an official mandate for these things, whereas before it highly depended on the opinions or stances of the Sabbatical Officer at the time. It also means that we have a more clear, consistent and explicit foundation for taking people to disciplinary where our remit allows.
  • We are currently reviewing our Student officer and Sabbatical structure and one of my proposals is developing the BAME Officer role to be less grouped together and more of a network with a chair, who will be able to bring forward and communicate the goals and issues laid out by the network.
  • I have consistently invited students to be in the room of the Race Equality Charter. Where they haven’t attended, I have been sure to talk to students and bring forward their concerns on behalf of them, and through the REC I have been lobbying for the student survey results to be released, for a more student focus on disciplinary, teaching, and safety issues, and curriculum issues.
  • I have taken on the work from Emily Harrison as previous VP Communities in the diversifying and decolonizing the curriculum initiative which seeks to ensure the curriculum is free from colonial teaching viewpoints, diverse in that it is internationalized and diversified in materials, academics and accessibility. This is going to be approved in July 2020 and implemented from there on out.
  • We have facilitated campaigns by Black students as well as brought in Black speakers, and helped with connections, networks and funding for campaigns such as Black History Month and other campaigns and events that have been outside of this month, including our Black Students Forums.
  • I have drafted and will be getting approved a policy regarding SUSU’s stances on affiliations and student groups, with the intent that we reserve the right to not fund, not affiliate and not engage with any student group that goes against our values detailed in our Expect Respect policy.
  • With the LGBT+ officer, we have filmed videos regarding QPOC issues throughout the year, such as blood bias, and for LGBT+ History Month we hosted the first Queer Black Rainbow night, specifically for QPOC.
  • Other non-Black student specific work has included: International student representation in regards to VISA issues (our VP Education and Democracy had a PhD students student status readmitted, and last year our President fought the Home Office to allow a student to take his exams when they were threatened with deportation).
  • Letters to Student Accommodation and landlords regarding international student welfare support and early release due to Covid-19, and fed directly with the University in their support for international students accessing online learning.
  • I am currently putting together proposals to get a BAME specific and specialised counsellor available to students and staff who are working on race equality work to help with the additional emotional labour, and this is feeding into a longer term proposal to have a permanent members of staff or provision to sit within the University. Currently we have volunteer counsellors who are specialised but they are ad-hoc.
  • The University also have dedicated teams that are looking at data in gaps around attainment, continuation and other issues that affect disadvantaged groups. This work cannot be fixed overnight and it is very much a cultural and societal issue, and they are making sure they’re identifying where the problem lies and have already started acting on this.

This is just what I’ve done within my role and to be clear I do not take credit for all of this. Some of this has been facilitating students to lead these campaigns, because it is their voices that need to be heard, not mine. However, we recognise in the current circumstance it is really important for white people in positions of power to speak up, and we are doing that where it is appropriate and where we are not only talking about ourselves, but raising awareness for others.

Emily, our President has been fighting for EDI progress at the highest University level. She led the Mayflower response challenge against the University and provided many opportunities for students to directly challenge this. She called for a review of the investigation and has been holding them to account in the highest governance board that they have.

We have and will continue to make mistakes but we are very much committed to learning and growing from those to ensure that our positions are being used to bring about actual change. Unfortunately, despite being public figures, a lot of the work we do is in boardrooms, in offices and in meetings. We will still continue to engage, post and promote opportunities for volunteering with us and getting involved in projects.

If you’d like to contact me about any of this, or get involved in any projects detailed above, please email me on vpwelfare@susu.org!

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