These are challenging times for all our students, and everyone is under pressure living with the uncertainties Covid-19 has caused. It is difficult to comprehend how much more traumatic it is for many of our students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME). We know that these families have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, meaning students will be anxious both about themselves and their loved ones.
Students have let us know that with the current terrible events exposing injustice internationally, they are feeling even more scared, worried and angry.
It is really important as a University that we offer more than “thoughts and prayers” and that all our students feel that they can thrive and are supported here. We are not complacent – and I recognise there is a lot of work to do – but I wanted to let you know what we are doing already to support our students and to ask for the help of all the St George’s community in this work.
It is crucial to stress that racist behaviour is not tolerated and any student who feels that they have been subject to this should report it either informally to me, your personal tutor, or to Margot Turner, Senior Lecturer in Diversity and Medical Education. If you wish to set out your experiences in a formal complaint, depending on their nature, this can be done through the Student Concerns and Complaints Procedures. Support for students who need advice about submitting a concern – or about welfare more generally - can, as ever, contact the Vice President (Education and Welfare) of the Students Union, your personal tutor, the Student Life centre, or the Student Support and Welfare officer Lon Teija. The University’s counselling service also offer confidential support available via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the student body have raised the concern that the counselling service staff could be more diverse, and we have recently taken steps to improve diversity in this regard and will shortly have a Black male counsellor join the team. Julia Hutchinson (Head of Counselling) and I have been piloting remote support groups during the Covid-19 crisis and I am working with Margot to set up more for any interested students. I am also working to set up a mentoring scheme with some interested junior doctors.
ACMA (the AfroCaribbean Medical Association) are doing amazing work and are helping to develop a Charter with the Medical Schools Council, and there has been an incredibly important student-led project working with the University to progress decolonising and humanising the medical curriculum. Staff and students organised a successful BAME attainment event – How do we talk about ethnicity and (in)equality at St George’s – last year. As a University we want to build on these initiatives.
Many students are saying that they feel this is an important time to effect change and we welcome all students who have any suggestions of anything we can do better; please contact me if you have any individual or more general concerns.
Hoping you and your families stay safe.
Dean of Students
St George’s, University of London