Over the last eight months or so, we have been working across different schools around issues of decolonising the curriculum, improving the student experience for people of colour, and tackling the attainment gap.
At the beginning of the new academic year we will be launching two new campaigns: Eradicate Hate around reporting hate crime and raising awareness of racism and microaggressions; and Decolonise UEA around holistically improving the experience for students of colour and addressing structural and hierarchical barriers here at UEA.
Across every faculty there are a number of schools working on these issues and a number of staff passionate about making the experience better for students of colour on their course. From working groups and long-term project work to curriculum audits, proactive research into the reasons behind attainment gaps, and resourcing paid staff time to work on these issues, we have enjoyed being part of positive conversations at the school level and look forward to continuing these.
There is much more that we need to do to and it is important to build on this momentum and we acknowledge that for too long this work has relied on the time and emotional labour of students of colour themselves. We would not be here if it wasn’t for these students advocating for these issues and challenging us to be better and more proactive in this area.
As well as work from individual schools, we need UEA to invest in staff training and provide concentrated time for staff to work on these issues, look at their teaching and to take part in conversations around race. It is only through this that we can truly address these issues.
So far over 17 schools (and counting!) have expressed interest in being involved in Black History Month and Decolonise UEA in the next academic year. Our hope is that this will start long term work tackling racism at UEA and improving the experience of students of colour, as we know that we cannot be complacent and there is much more we need to do.
Here at the SU we have begun to plan what Black History Month looks like for October. Our current plans include an open mic; a Q&A with the Vice-Chancellor and members of the university senior management team; a Decolonise UEA steering group meeting; and a panel around what decolonising means to you. We really want our students to shape this month and so it you would like to be involved email: S.Atherton@uea.ac.uk.