In Principal Jenny Higham’s recent communication to staff and students she shared that the University was beginning an institutional review of inclusivity at St George’s, led by Professor Deborah Bowman, Deputy Principal for Institutional Affairs.
The University is committed to taking a collaborative approach, seeking input from across our community to ensure the voices of our Black and ethnic minority staff and students are part of the work to tackle racism and issues of race inequality. We want to listen, understand what we can do to make a real difference and put procedures and policies in place which embed lasting change.
Professor Higham said, “As a university we’re committed to an inclusive culture and condemn all racism and discriminatory behaviour in the strongest terms.
“It is utterly unacceptable that there are experiences of racism among our community and we stand with our Black staff and students and those from all underrepresented ethnic groups in pledging to take action. We cannot ignore the suffering and corrosive impacts of racism and racial inequality on society in dividing, marginalising and isolating communities and individuals.
“Our review of inclusion at St George’s is a first step in work which will be owned and scrutinized at the highest level. What is needed is far stronger than goodwill – it requires impactful, sustained change.”
To initiate the review, a meeting was held on Tuesday 23 June bringing together representatives from the Students’ Union, the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, the Attainment Working Group, the Staff Race and Ethnicity Network, Human Resources and those with experience of, expertise in, and responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion at the University. It will be critical to amplify the student voice in this process and the group will be seeking wider student engagement in meetings during the next phase of work.
Professor Deborah Bowman said of the meeting, “I am very grateful to the staff and students who attended and generously gave up their time, sharing their thoughts and perspectives with such honesty. I also want to acknowledge the many other people who have been in touch over the past weeks and have contributed to the discussions. I’ve learnt a lot and feel this is a real opportunity to make a lasting difference.”
The aims of this first meeting were:
- To connect staff and students with experience of, expertise in, and responsibility for, equality, diversity and inclusion at the University.
- To describe the range of feedback, suggestions and ideas that have been made over the last fortnight
- To have a structured discussion that welcomes different perspectives on:
- how to facilitate the amplification of previous and ongoing work and the development of sustainable, cross-institutional and impactful actions in relation to race and ethnicity;
- the structure of an institutional approach using three distinct workstreams for staff, students and cross-university. Each workstream being comprised of staff and students.
The workstreams and the institutional approach will follow the principles of co -production, openness, collaboration and accountability. This approach will be action driven. Discussions at the meeting identified a number of immediate priorities for attention. These were:
- Reviewing and strengthening processes for raising concerns, ensuring that they are trusted by all members of our community
- Reviewing our staff and student complaints processes to ensure they are robust and support a culture of safety and openness
- Increasing staff training around structural racism
Accountability, transparency and ownership of the actions and outcomes of the review are also priorities and the governance structure will be outlined in future communications. The group also identified the need for open discussion about the language used to describe these issues and the people affected to ensure it is appropriate and inclusive.
The review will use as a framework the UUK and NUS Closing the Gap report, following their five steps noted below to identify actions needed at St George’s.
- Providing strong leadership
- Having conversations about race and changing cultures
- Developing racially diverse and inclusive environments
- Getting the evidence and analysing the data on the attainment gap
- Understanding what works
The review is an ongoing process and we will be providing regular updates to all staff and students.
The workstream membership will be deliberately open and we would like staff and students to contribute. Thank you to those of you who have been in touch already. We are keen to hear from any other staff or students who would like to be involved. Please email June Phillips to express your interest via: firstname.lastname@example.org