Black Lives Matter
Here at the University of Hertfordshire, we stand by and support our black staff and students.
People in the UK and all over the world have taken to the streets to highlight issues faced by black people and called for action to tackle racial injustice. The UK, like the US, has taken too long to translate our ideals into action or change and we still have a long way to go.
We are educators. We cannot independently repair deeply rooted social and political systems on our own. But we can make a dent in them in higher education, the realm in which we have sway. Our role in addressing issues of race and ethnic discrimination is key – the knowledge we produce and share, and the way we operate, can contribute towards achieving the change that is necessary.
It is time to act, to support our staff and students and to help push for change. To get you started, we have provided useful facts, links and resources, to help you educate yourself, understand why change is needed and get involved.
- Black students are more likely to engage and participate in their university studies but a larger proportion obtain lower-level degrees and have lower satisfaction (The Independent, Oct 2019).
- In 2016/17, black graduates earned the lowest graduate salaries and experienced the worst graduate outcomes (GOV.UK, Jun 2019).
- There are only 40 black women out of 19,285 UK professors (of which 12,975 are white males, 4,560 white women and 90 black males) (THE, Jun 2020).
- Met police officers were shown to be twice as likely to issue fines to black people over COVID-19 lockdown breaches (The Guardian, June 2020).
- Black boys are more likely to be excluded from school even when engaging in the same disruptive behaviour as their white counterparts (DfES, Sept).
- British citizens with “foreign sounding names” have to send, on average, 60% more job applications to get a positive response from employers compared to their white counterparts (CSI, Jan 2019).
- Young BAME people are more likely to be sentenced to custody than their white peers (Ministry of Justice, Nov 2017).
- Black people are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched (The Guardian, May 2019).
- In 2018/19, 76% of hate crimes in England & Wales were racially motivated (Home Office, Oct 2019).
The University of Hertfordshire holds a Bronze Race Equality Charter award and is currently progressing an extensive action plan. As well, two out of three of the University’s Equality Objectives are focused on race:
- Increase the number of black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff at UH9 (senior leadership roles) and above to 16% and teaching staff to 25%
- To eliminate the attainment gap between white and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students, reducing this gap by 50% in the next five years
Our overall BAME staff community (16.5% FTE) is not reflective of the hugely diverse student population (54% BAME). Of this group, 5.1% FTE of staff are from Black ethnic backgrounds (just over half are academics) as compared to 17.7% of students. Of those staff at UH9 and above, BAME individuals account for 13.3% FTE.
We are making changes around where and how we recruit as well as ensuring progression processes are fair and transparent. We are also home to a highly active BAME Staff Network who:
- Support BAME members of staff in their working lives and career progression.
- Promote awareness of BAME issues within the University
- Provide a voice that may influence decision and policy making at senior levels.
- Organise regular meetings and events (e.g. for Black History Month).
The current awarding gap at the University of Hertfordshire is 21%, compared to 13% nationally (UUK, 2019) and we have put in place a number of targeted initiatives to tackle this gap, including:
- Our Equality office is working with each School at the University to develop bespoke action plans to reduce the attainment gap. In some Schools, the attainment gap is lower than 10% and in some of our programmes there is no attainment gap. We are using good practice from these areas to inform how we can improve overall as an institution.
- We have BAME advocates, who lead on developing activities for BAME students including workshops and an alumni speaker series. They have changed the conversation at the University around race, racism and white privilege, educating staff and fellow students through sharing lived experiences.
- Our BAME advocates, in collaboration with Widening Access and Student Success and the Schools of Humanities, Education, Law and Business, organise annual BAME careers events. These events provide BAME students with an opportunity to engage with employers, create meaningful contacts and also to learn skills that allow them to stand out in the job market.
- We are working to continue diversifying our curriculum. To support this work, our staff have been provided with curriculum checklists to ensure our teaching content is both inclusive and appropriate.
Be an ally
While those at the University who are white might readily abhor overt acts of racism, it is not something they are likely to have experienced directly. That lack of experience can make it difficult to properly understand racism or to be fully supportive of those who endure its impacts – large and small – every day. The day to day experience of black colleagues and students is against a backdrop of micro-aggressions, which are less obvious and often unintentional, but have the cumulative effect of creating an environment which is more challenging and draining.
But you can help by being an ally. The suggestions below will help you better understand what it means to be an ally and provides examples of positive actions you can take to combat racism; in its explicit or subtle forms. The information is drawn from many different sources. Although it focuses on ways to support our black colleagues and students, equally it can help us to support all BAME individuals within our community.
- BAMEed also have a great resource by Dr Muna Abdi to help anyone who isn’t BAME understand how to become an ally.
What you can do as an ally
Resources to explore
- Runnymede, a race equality think-tank
- Race on the Agenda, a social policy think-tank
- Stephen Lawrence Trust works with and supports young people
- Operation Black Vote tackles the black democratic deficit
- StopWatch UK works to ensure fair and accountable policing
- United Families & Friends Campaign against police custody deaths
- 10 steps to non-optical allyship
- So you don't like racism but you're in the UK and feel powerless
- How to be mindful when you check in on your black friends
- A thread by Equality Diversity & Inclusion in Science and Health
- A thread listing some black businesses in the UK
- White privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack
- Guidelines for being strong white allies
- White people, here's how we can be better allies and anti-racist
- Why you should stop saying "all lives matter"
- Racial microaggressions in science
- Universities can and should do much more to address systemic racism
Support at the University
If you need any support during this time, the University's Employee Assistance Programme, Student Wellbeing services and Advice and Support Centre are still working remotely. You can also contact the Equality Office or check out the following resources for black members of staff and students:
- Black Minds Matter. An organisation which is providing black people in the UK with free therapy with professional black therapists.
- Liberate. A meditation app for black, Indigenous and People of Colour
- Shine. A free WOC (Women of Colour) owned app where you can check in daily, track your mood, receive daily quotes and do meditations etc.
- The Safe Place. An app for mental health resources and self-care tips
- Headspace. Did you know staff and students with an @herts.ac.uk email address can get Spotify and Headspace for only £4.99 a month? Take advantage of this deal here.