On 25 May 2020 George Perry Floyd died in Minneapolis at the hands of the police. His death has been the catalyst for protest and action across the world and has brought to light the prevalence of systemic racism, racialised inequality and injustice not just in the USA but in the UK and the world.
As these events have unfolded we have been doing a lot of self-reflection and much discussion has gone on amongst students and colleagues about how to respond to and address these issues. Finding the right way forward and the words to say has been difficult but it is essential. Difficult or not, for our university in particular, this is hugely important and we must commit to doing better and to continuing these conversations and taking actions.
As a community of people from a multitude of different racial, ethnic, national and religious backgrounds, the University of Westminster, our Students’ Union, UCU, Unison and our BME, LGBTIQ, and Women of Westminster networks stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and wholeheartedly against racism in all forms.
We acknowledge that we are an institution where many of us benefit from white privilege and we know there is much to learn and much more for us to do to address and dismantle institutional racism. It is our most solemn wish that everyone within our community feels safe, heard, valued, respected and encouraged. Wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do and inclusivity and ensuring that all our colleagues and students are supported to reach their full potential are core to this.
Today in the UK, Black people are four times more likely to die from Covid-19 and within our own university the awarding gap, which the global pandemic threatens to widen, is 21 per cent for Black Students, our BME pay gap is some 18 per cent and we have a serious lack of diversity within all our senior levels within academic and professional services. These are not the only areas of disparity. We acknowledge these and other failings and are committed to taking steps to address them.
We have already made some steps. Our high-level Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan was agreed in January this year and our new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee is being formed to oversee the implementation of this work. Some nine months ago, we established the Diversity and Inclusion Research Community. While acknowledging examples of good practices in some areas, we reject complacency or tokenism.
There is a lot of work to do and we want to get these steps right and continue our conversations for ongoing change. For instance, we invited BME colleagues and our Students’ Union to help us identify key challenges they face and what action they would suggest we take as a University. Our BME Network and the Students’ Union are drawing up a list of ideas for a way forward toward an anti-racist University and we are committed to working together to put ideas into actions.
We are looking in detail at our structures, our curriculum and our support services and will share this plan with you on 26 June 2020. We encourage you all to engage with our plans and continue to hold us accountable to our commitments.
The current media focus already seems to be waning, but for us it was never the start and we will not let it be the end of this work. It is a moment for us to reaffirm together that racism has no place at Westminster, to listen to the experiences of our Black colleagues and students, and to be clear that there is both the desire and readiness to take positive action at Westminster.
If you would like to share feedback or be involved in creating the change, please email [email protected].
Our Students’ Union, UCU, Unison, BME Network and Library Services have created a list of resources for BAME and non-BAME allies to increase our understanding of the issues highlighted by recent events including books, podcasts, places to donate and many other interventions which we invite you to use.
If you have been impacted by recent events, support is available to you:
- Learn about our Student Support Services available
- Our BME Staff Network represents the interests and aspirations of Black and Minority Ethnic Staff at the University. You can contact them at [email protected]
- UCU can be contacted at [email protected]
- Find out more about UCU BAME and Equality support. Please also see the dedicated website
- Unison can be contacted at [email protected]
- Learn more about Unison BAME and Equality support
- Access our colleague wellbeing resources. For more information on the wellbeing resources available to colleagues, email [email protected]