Category Archives: challenging racism

Living Black at Kent

The first research report into Black students’ experience in UK purpose-built student accommodation, Living Black at University was published in February 2022 by Unite Students. At the University of Kent, we wanted to respond to and act upon the findings and recommendations of the report published which had found evidence of racism, cultural insensitivity, and exclusion – all of which had a significant impact on Black students’ mental health.

A Living Black at Kent Working Group was set up in April 2023, comprising stakeholders from across the University and student union, to respond to the findings, and ten recommendations in the report listed below, thereby improving, and enhancing the lived experience for our Black students.

  1. Universities and accommodation providers should collaborate to eliminate racism from all areas of the student experience, including student accommodation.
  2. Improve acclimatisation and integration activities for all new students and extend the period over which these activities take place.
  3. Introduce meaningful race training for peers and staff.
  4. Accommodation providers should confirm a commitment to tackling racism, both in their internal policies and in their student behavioural agreement or charter
  5. Improve the representation of Black people as employees to reflect the diversity of students.
  6. Universities and accommodation providers should work together to create intentionally diverse and inclusive student accommodation.
  7. Universities and accommodation providers should collaborate to ensure mental health and wellbeing support is available, accessible, and appropriate for Black students.
  8. Ensure there are clear and accessible policies and procedures (including anonymous reporting) that deal explicitly with racism in accommodation.
  9. Accommodation providers should routinely collect, analyse, and publish relevant data on the racial diversity of their residents and employees, as well as outcomes of reporting and investigation of complaints.
  10. Accommodation providers should work to build a relationship of trust with Black students.

So far, we have looked at our acclimatisation and integration activities to ensure that we offer a diverse range of options during our welcome period, and we are making this a real focus for our ResLife programme to ensure that this continues throughout the academic year.

We have considered Kents student demographics to ensure we are providing culturally relevant services. Our catering options were reviewed as part of this, and students and suppliers were invited to a food tasting event, where we could gather feedback about our food offerings on campus. As a result, in September 2023 we launched a West Indian microbrand called Three Little Birds and are also offering a selection of African and West Indian drinks and snacks in our catering outlets.

Current residential students were invited to share what advice they would give to new students moving to Kent for the first time in terms of other culturally relevant services in the area. From this we have created a welcome booklet called ‘Living Black at Kent’ featuring peer-to-peer advice from current students, signposting to where students can find global food suppliers, Afro-Caribbean hair salons, and suggestions for student societies and faith groups.

As the Living Black at University (LBU) report is a national project, to ensure that the work we do here at Kent is relevant for our student body we included the original research questions in our 2022/23 end-of- year residential student survey to which we had a fantastic response rate, demonstrating the engagement of Kent students in this discussion.

The findings were compared with the original LBU Report findings, as well as comparing with qualitative data collected by both our EDI team and Students Union which focused on Black students’ experiences at Kent.  With this feedback data we are confident that we are improving areas at Kent that will have significant impact.

The residential survey, with the addition of the LBU elements, will run annually at Kent enabling us to respond to the current student body and measure our initiatives impact.

Most importantly is here at Kent we are open to the findings and embrace change to make positive improvements for our Black students; we look forward to sharing the results and initiatives as they evolve with you and welcome any feedback you have on the Living Black at Kent project.

Challenging Racism project update

Update from Leroy | Race Equality Charter Co-ordinator

Since our last update the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) Team has been working on our Race Equality Charter (REC) and at the end of 2021, introduced our Race Equality Charter Self-Assessment (RECSAT) Team to analyse its data.

Here’s more information about the Race Equality Charter and the work being done by the Race Equality Charter Self-Assessment Team:

What is the REC?

The Race Equality Charter (REC) is an AdvanceHE charter mark focussed at Higher Education (HE) institutions reflecting and tackling race inequality. It follows fairly similar principles to AthenaSWAN with the exception that its focus is ethnicity rather than gender. It asks us as an institution to set up a Race Equality Charter Self-Assessment Team (RECSAT).

What is RECSAT?

The Race Equality Charter Self-Assessment Team (RECSAT), is the committee involved in analysing our application, commenting and critiquing on data.

We established the RECSAT in December 2021 and since then it has had two full meetings and they have been discussing topics such as the University’s wider EDI work alongside how we go about fulfilling REC requirements.

Outcome from the RECSAT meetings

The RECSAT decided to continue to use the term racially minoritised in Kent. While we know that the term racially minoritised isn’t perfect, we all acknowledge the problems the term Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) brings, especially how it excludes some minoritised communities and homogenises others.

As set out in the Antiracism Strategy; racially minoritised is a term increasingly used in EDI work as an alternative to BAME as it highlights the social construction of racial categorisation. However, the term racially minoritised also has limitations:

  • it could be perceived as passive and limiting in terms of individual agency
  • it also risks homogenising the experience of individuals and communities who experience racism in different ways.

The term is used here fully aware of these limitations but in acknowledgement that there is no consensus on a new national preferred terminology as of yet.

Where we classify racially minoritised and we as an institution support racially minoritised individuals, there may be a mismatch in support from external providers and we are looking to see how we can do that effectively.

We would encourage staff and students to talk to RECSAT members so that thoughts and opinions can enhance meetings. We would ask however to respect that the individuals are students and full time staff and may also have a lot of things on their plate alongside the vital work they are doing in the REC.

One of the other key things that our RECSAT emphasised in their previous meetings, is the importance of making spaces and mechanisms with proper throughput of lived experiences of staff and students. Members stressed the importance of listening and discussing these things and not losing the spaces that provide them, as well as ensuring what’s heard is acted upon and taken up with feedback and progress.

Discussions of the things that come out of RECSAT meetings will form part of the REC action plan as well.

The EDI Team has been working on our REC application with the input of the RECSAT and staff around the institution.

How you can get involved

If you’re a group of staff, a student network, Divisional EDI team, a person who wants to know more, get involved or mention something to us, do get in touch.

There are some quick and easy things you can do:

  • Have open discussions about EDI between yourselves and your Divisional/Departmental EDI teams. The more we talk, the more we can listen, the more we can improve. Those things can feed into the REC process and our EDI forum.
  • Ensure you’ve got your demographic information complete as possible and up to date on StaffConnect. We need to ensure we have as complete a picture as possible when we do our work to make sure it has the widest impact.

There are resources in Kent and across the board that can help you get started, enhance what you know with some intersectionality in Kent:

Progress on student demands

Throughout the REC and antiracism work we have been doing we are keeping a close eye on the student demands and what we can do to take more action on them.

Kent made its Antiracism Strategy in response to student demands as well as to incorporate the University’s commitment to being an antiracist institution. An action plan to that strategy is being made as part of our REC submission process to push the progress in a positive direction with meaningful accountability.

We are setting up a Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Group. The group will include staff and students and look at potentially being an independent panel having no senior management involved in the processes.

The excellent survey made by the BAME staff network is entering its next phase. Big shout out to the network co-chairs for the amazing piece of work they are continuing.

Other institutional progress

Kent has signed up to StellarHE Executive Development Programme for Diverse Leaders (BAME) in Higher Education. It is aimed at academic and professional staff aspiring to senior leadership positions in Higher Education and we have submitted our first round of staff to the programme.

Feedback from the ‘Implementing an anti-racism strategy’ session

The final day of Kent’s inaugural staff conference was marked by an important session on our university’s new Anti-racism strategy. GdM (DVC, EDI Lead and Kent’s Race Champion) hosted a staff discussion and Q&A, together with a panel of colleagues instrumental in the development of our strategy.

You can listen to a recording of the event.

Slides to accompany the event – Staff Conference anti-racism strategy slides

Key feedback from the session include:

*making sure that experiences and stories are incorporated into our anti-racism work (along with more quantitative forms of data).

*being as transparent as possible about what we are doing, so that we can get the most out of this living-breathing process and associated work plans.

In response to this feedback we will be continuing to update our Challenging Racism pages so that this can serve as one part of a broader suite of mechanisms for feedback and transparency in our work around EDI. We will also be looking to join up important insights from across the institution, including but not limited to the important experiential information and recommendations which have emerged from the BAME Staff Network’s survey and project.

To amplify work that is already happening across Kent in support of our approach to anti-racism, we’d also like to draw your attention to other key updates at this time:

*Inform Kent (InK) has changed to Report + Support. The Report + Support page can be found on the website. The page gives the option to give an anonymous report or a report with details that Ken can follow up on. In both cases your confidentiality will be respected in-line with our safeguarding policies. This page also collates all of the help and support pages into one, to increase access to the resources that may be most helpful to you at the time.

*The staff reporting tool can still be accessed via links found on the “Reporting Incidents” page.

Just a reminder that this reporting tool is for any sort of incident that occurs, irrespective of whether the incident involves another member of staff.

We hope that staff and students will feel encouraged to report incidents and that the experience of doing so feels helpful and supportive.  Where sufficient information is shared, we hope to enable effective, timely resolutions and support.  Your experience at Kent is important to us.  If for any reason you have concerns about reporting, do please speak to a Harassment Adviser or someone you trust within the institution, as we’d like to ensure you get the support you need.

Black male student looking at camera

Supporting the mental health of Black and racially minoritised students

Warning: Contents contain references to racism and may have a triggering effect for some individuals

Racism can happen anywhere; at work, at home, at University, online or in the physical world. Racism is still a very real and damaging facet of modern day society and can have a long term and lasting impact on anyone who has experienced it either directly or indirectly. This includes the mental and emotional strain created by microaggressions. Here at Kent we want to support all students who have been affected or continue to be affected by racism and work together to create a culture where racism is not just challenged, but eradicated completely.

Have you been affected by racism? Young minds have some great resources and signpost organisations and helpline services to support you: 

Advice on racism and mental health #BHMKent2021

Speak to someone you can trust. It might be difficult to talk about how you are feeling or to revisit personal experiences of racism. Take your time and only share what you are comfortable sharing. Student Support and Wellbeing have a free confidential counselling service for all students at Kent. 

Learn your rights and how to report abuse. This can help empower you and remind you that what you are experiencing is not okay and no one should express that it is. Use our online reporting tool ‘Report and Support’ to be part of a culture shift and get the support you need. Allies should acquaint themselves with the support tools available as well so that they can be advocates for their friends and classmates.

Find supportive groups and communities who understand what you are going through. It can be very hard to explain how you feel to a person that has not experienced racism, whether directly or indirectly. Communities can be a way to find like-minded people with similar experiences and shared interests that you can talk to, have a safe space to be heard and remember that you are not alone. One of the online platforms you have free access to as a Kent student is Togetherall

Join a movement to create change. There are many anti-racist movements and organisations who are fighting for change in society. Being part of a larger movement can help you feel empowered, valued and give you a sense of hope that change is possible. Make sure to take time out to rest and look after yourself if you are regularly involved in activism. Kent Union supports a number of student networks. These are student-led spaces where students who share an interest of identity can discuss issues relating to their group and help build a community.

Remember it is not your responsibility to fix racism. Do not put pressure on yourself – this is a problem you cannot solve on your own. The people around you all have a responsibility to make changes to their behaviour and to uphold the rights of Black and racially minoritised individuals.

Enough is Enough! Clean your social media feed. What we see online can have a negative impact on our mental health, but remember you can have control over what you see on your social media. Try unfollowing or blocking accounts and muting words that upset you. All social media channels have ways you can report abusive behaviour. At Kent we expect certain standards of behaviour both online and in the ‘real’ world. If you are concerned about anything you see you can report it to us in a safe and confidential manner using our online Report and Support tool. 

The University of Kent and Kent Union are working together to celebrate Black History Month 2021 #BHMKent2021. Take a look at the Kent Union BHM website for events and resources at Kent. This includes a free mental health support workshop by Diverse Cymru, an organisation that specialises in Black mental health. Please check the website for further information and to register your attendance.

Photo by Mubarak Showole on Unsplash

Challenging Racism session for Executive Group

Our executive group members undertook 3 x 2 hours sessions over a 6 week period starting in January 2021.

The sessions was strategic and high level, giving a broad picture of the current national context in relation to race and ethnicity and included tools for EG to use at their level. The programme was contextualised and took into account recent activity from staff and student’s networks i.e. call for action/demands after the death of George Floyd that EG needed to respond to.

The sessions covered the following areas:

1.       Where have we been?  

·       Scene setting and expectations of the group.

·       Context setting: what’s the conversation going on nationally? In the HE sector?

·       Sharing concerns and challenges of talking about race and having these conversations

·       Exploring privilege and white privilege

~ Mid-session tasks~ The group will be set a video/TED talk to watch and an article to read

2.       Where are we now?

·       Reflection on session 1 and mid-session tasks

·       Micro-aggressions and language. How do we spot it? How do we challenge and change? Practical tips for constructive challenge and how to role model this as a leader.

~ Mid-session tasks~ The group will be set a video/TED talk to watch and an article to read  

3.       Where do we go next?

·       Reflection on the journey so far

·       How to start conversations about race – including rehearsing starting the conversation

The sessions were well attended with the majority of EG members attending all 3 sessions. Evaluation feedback was requested at the end of each workshop and the next workshop was designed based on the comments and suggestions received following an iterative approach. The first 2 workshops were mostly about building basic knowledge and understanding around the challenges surrounding race equality whereas the last workshop was a lot more practical with the group discussing how they would respond to the call to action from staff and students. A number of “next steps” were agreed with the consultant and a follow-up workshop is planned for 2021-22.

International Nonbinary People’s Day – 14 July

14 July is International Nonbinary People’s Day, where we celebrate the contributions and resilience of nonbinary people worldwide. We also join with people around the world raise awareness of the issues faced by nonbinary people. Nonbinary people do not identify with the binary distinctions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’. In the UK, nonbinary people face poor mental health, physical harassment and ongoing discrimination.

To address this at Kent, we encourage you to engage with learning about the experiences of nonbinary people. The Stonewall “10 ways to step up as an Ally” highlights some steps that you can take as an individual to build an increasingly inclusive community at Kent. At Kent, our pronoun guide can help with creating an inclusive culture for everyone in our community. Our LGBT+ Staff network and student network are welcoming to all – the  Kent LGBT+ Staff Network blog has many resources, for both members of the community and allies, including a post wishing you a Happy International Nonbinary People’s Day!

We recognise there is more work to do in creating an inclusive community for nonbinary members of our community at Kent, and we encourage you to report incidents of harassment so that we can address systemic discriminations.

Throughout the day, stories written by nonbinary people will be shared on social media through the hashtags #internationalnonbinaryday and  #ThisIsWhatNonBinaryLooksLike – this is an opportunity to learn of the experience of nonbinary people and to amplify their voices.

BAME Staff Network statement in response to racism following England’s defeat in Euro 2020 final

From the Co-chairs of the BAME Staff Network:

Dear BAME Staff Network members and all University staff and students,

The BAME Staff Network wishes to express solidarity with all members of the Black staff and student university community, our local Black community in Canterbury and Medway, and our Black brothers and sisters across the nation in what has been a very upsetting and disturbing run of events following England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday. The racism to which the three marvellous England football team players, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, have been subjected to, is despicable – yet many people in the Black community have said, not surprising.  Indeed, many of them sadly predicted what unfolded, evidencing that we are still very much living in a society where racism is prevalent and where many Black members of our community continue to feel unfairly treated.

Yet again, we are reminded of how quickly the tide can turn when it comes to matters of race and how progress can be so seriously threatened – from Black Lives Matters, to unhindered and overt racism. There is so much more we as co-chairs can say, but for now we wish to acknowledge the deep hurt such abusive comments have caused to the players, their families and friends, and to all of our fellow Black citizens.

We wish to remind everyone of the policies against racism and harassment and the support services based at the university, should you feel the need to access these:

https://www.kent.ac.uk/hr-staffinformation/policies/dignity.html

https://www.kent.ac.uk/challenging-racism

https://www.kent.ac.uk/equality-diversity-inclusivity/harassment

https://www.kent.ac.uk/student-support

https://livekentac.sharepoint.com/sites/MentalHealthSupport

https://www.kent.ac.uk/equality-diversity-inclusivity/reporting-incidents

The events reaffirm the absolute need for us all to continue our discussions on race but more importantly, to take action at an individual and organisational level and have the courage to challenge any form of discrimination, overt or covert. Only through this collective action can we dismantle the structures which allow such behaviour to continue.

As the BAME Staff Network, we will certainly continue to engage in relevant discourses and action in coming months, and keep working towards dismantling systemic racism through our committed efforts as educators. If anyone wishes to contact the network co-chairs, even if it is simply to talk through how they feel about these events, please email bamestaffnetwork@kent.ac.uk and we will arrange a suitable time to talk with you.

Take care all,

Vanisha, Bridget, Barbara and Dave
Co-chairs of the BAME Staff Network

University of Kent logo

Are Unis Racist Documentary : University of Kent Response

Last night’s BBC documentary Are Unis Racist highlighted powerful and deeply troubling examples of students experiencing systemic racism at universities across the countryWe fully acknowledge the justified hurt and anger behind the issues raised in the programme, and we recognise that we, both as an institution and a wider sector, are institutionally racist and need to do more to tackle this. 

We know we have a significant role to play in ensuring that we challenge and deconstruct systemic racism and all forms of discrimination at the University and beyond. We will continue to address these issues at Kent, and encourage all members of our community to learn more about them so we can ensure we are a place where all individuals feel welcome, supported and proud of who we are. The resources put together on this by our BAME Staff Network  are available to everyone to further their understanding of their role in challenging racist behaviour and structures.  

We fully support our students and staff to report incidents of racism, harassment and discrimination Students can do this via our Inform Kent reporting tool which will ensure that you gain access to support available after any incidentwith a separate formal process for staff.  

We also encourage anyone affected by the documentary to seek support from those around you, including contacting Student Support directly at any time via wellbeing@kent.ac.uk.  Staff are also encouraged to talk to their manager or a colleague, or to contact our Employee Assistance Programme.    

Find out more about Challenging Racism at Kent

 

Virtual roundtable on Medical Racism – 29 April

All staff are invited to join a virtual roundtable on Medical Racism: Protecting Ourselves, Our Families and Our Communities on Thursday 29 April, from 17.30-19.00.

Structural racism has increased mistrust and hesitancy to engage with the medical system among Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. Historical examples of unethical experimentation and medical mistreatment of Black people has heightened suspicion of endeavours to promote public health.

This virtual roundtable, organised by the universities of Kent and Oxford BAME/BME Staff Networks, will feature a panel of expert medical practitioners and scholars, including:

  • Dr Winston Morgan, Reader in toxicology and clinical biochemistry, Medicines Research Group, University of East London.
  • Dr Mohammed Sakel, Director NeuroRehabilitation, Consultant Physician, Director Research & Development, East Kent Hospital University
  • Dr Roberta Babb, Chartered Psychologist, Registered Clinical Psychologist, Registered Forensic Psychodynamic Psychotherapist, Media Psychologist, Life Coach and Organisational Consultant, The Hanover Center
  • Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Emeritus Professor of Nursing, Patron of Sickle Cell UK
  • Dr Aadil El-Turabi, Vaccinologist specialising in Virus-Like Particles, Jenner Institute

To sign-up for the roundtable, click on this Eventbrite link. We look forward to seeing you there.

Bridget, Dave, Barbara and Vanisha, Co-Chairs of the BAME Staff Network

Challenging Racism – Live Webinar 19 April and Inclusion Circle 22 April

Continuing with our ‘Challenging Racism’ campaign, staff are invited to join us at two key events – a Live Webinar on 19 April and an Inclusion Circle session on 22 April.

For our final Live Webinar on Monday 19 April at 13.00, we are delighted to welcome Dr Jason Arday on ‘Let’s talk about race’.  The 90-minute online webinar is facilitated by Inclusive Employers, with a guest speaker, panel discussion and Q&A session.

We will be looking at why talking about race is difficult and why silence is so damaging to all of us, including:

  • What we can all do to encourage and improve conversations around race
  • Language and saying the ‘wrong’ thing
  • Top tips for starting conversations about race

Dr Jason Arday is an Associate Professor in Sociology at Durham University and Deputy Executive Dean for People and Culture in the Faculty of Social Science and Health. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at The Ohio State University in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an Adjunct Professor at Nelson Mandela University and a Trustee of the Runnymede Trust, the UK’s leading Race Equality think tank. He is a presenter, with Heidi Mirza, of a podcast on Dismantling Race in Higher Education. 

Book your place today via Eventbrite. You can listen to our two previous live webinars on the Challenging Racism Together webpages (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Inclusion Circle

Our next Inclusion Circle ‘Taking action on race inequality and inclusion’ will take place on Thursday 22 April at 10.00, and is open to staff from all ethnic backgrounds.

The aim of the Inclusion Circles is to create a safe environment to listen to staff concerns, shared lived experiences, discuss a variety of topics, and show solidarity. The 90-minute session is facilitated by Inclusive Employers consultants Aminata Pungi and Addison Barnett, and will include:

  • An open discussion on how to tackle racial inequality.
  • A facilitated conversation focusing on the problems and ideas for solutions.

Spaces are limited so please email ChallengingRacism@Kent.ac.uk if you would like to join.

About Challenging Racism

The aim of the ‘Challenging Racism’ campaign is to promote unity, not division and to help understand and develop more inclusive behaviours. To do that, we all need to increase our awareness and understanding of racism and how it can be tackled within Kent, to ensure all staff and students feel safe and empowered.

Please share this and encourage your contacts and teams to sign-up so that we can all work together and take the first steps to address racism at Kent and beyond.  If you have any questions, email challengingracism@kent.ac.uk

#EDI #challengingracismtogether #choosetochallenge