One year ago, the murder of George Floyd sent shockwaves around the world with far-reaching impact. Many long-standing issues of injustice and discrimination were brought to the fore as the sense of outrage at what had happened grew. Alongside the protests about George Floyd’s murder there was a strong and growing sense of awareness on a global scale that his death needed to be a moment for action and that much more must be done to address racial discrimination and wider societal injustices in the world.
UEA's Vice-Chancellor Professor David Richardson was committed to doing more to tackling racism having become chair of an advisory group for Universities UK in October 2019. This working group undertook an in-depth consultation with experts in the field, alongside panels of exclusively Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff with lived experience of racial harassment and discrimination. They a published a detailed report Tackling racial harassment in higher education in November 2020, which included a new set of recommendations designed to decisively tackle racial harassment as part of efforts to address racial inequality in UK higher education.
At UEA, a Vice-Chancellor’s Taskforce on Tackling Racism at UEA was established in October 2020, with representation from staff and students and clear terms of reference. Namely to: establish and promote race equality as an institutional priority at UEA; oversee, learn from and act upon the findings and recommendations of work undertaken by relevant project groups; identify specific improvements and decide how to implement them at UEA; and ensure that all ‘change’ projects are informed by those with lived experiences, which is a guiding principle of all projects tackling racism at UEA. The Taskforce is committed to tackling racism in the context of equality, diversity and inclusion in the student and staff experience at UEA, with a focus in terms of the student experience in recruitment, inclusion and progression; and in the staff experience in diversification, recruitment, career development and UEA life.
An initial gap analysis has been undertaken mapping the new UUK guidelines against UEA practice and good progress is already underway to identify UEA-specific change projects. Wider consultation, beyond Taskforce members, will be undertaken by three project working groups, which will also be informed by the results of UEA's Race Equality Charter survey. Enhancing the Report and Support initiative will be a major priority as will developing relevant training provision for all.
The most recent meeting of the VC Taskforce took place on 19 May and confirmed that these project groups will operate under co-chairs, with the Taskforce itself being co-chaired by David Richardson, Vice-Chancellor and Carlene Cornish, lecturer in the UEA School of Social Work.
The three project groups and co-chairs are:
- UEA Life, Community and Belonging – Co-chairs: Charlene Katuwawala, Head of Content in Admissions, Recruitment and Marketing and Professor Sarah Barrow, Executive Team lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
- UEA Students – Co-chairs: Aaron Campbell, the new uea(su) Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer and Professor Helena Gillespie, Academic Director for Inclusive Education
- UEA Staff – Co-chairs: Dr Nadine Zubair, Digital Humanities Manager and Helen Wiseman, Director of People and Culture
The work of these groups will feed into the regular meetings and work of the Vice-Chancellor’s Taskforce on Tackling Racism at UEA, starting from the next meeting on 5 July.
Commenting on the Vice-Chancellor’s Taskforce on Tackling Racism at UEA co-chair of the Taskforce Carlene Cornish said: “This is really important work for the university to address and I believe the structure we have established with these new project groups will greatly assist in our ability to bring forward changes that will improve both the student and staff experience at UEA.”
Co-chair David Richardson said: “I believe we are making real progress in addressing the challenges we face but there is still considerable work to do and I want to thank all the co-chairs and members of these new project groups for their contribution to working for the improvements we want to see for students and staff now and in the future. The events in Minnesota a year ago today were a reminder to us all that society has a long way to go when it comes to stamping out racism and tackling social injustice.”