Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter protests around the world challenge us to reflect on the ways in which we as a School can contribute to eradicating racial discrimination in our institution and beyond.
As a School of Modern Languages, intercultural awareness is our business. This entails challenging preconceived opinions and stereotypes through academic debate and analysis. We stand with our Black staff and students against all forms of racism.
Although we all share this commitment, we are not complacent. We recognize that neither the staff nor the student body are yet sufficiently diverse. While this is not something we can address overnight, we will continue our efforts to attract staff and student from BAME groups and support them while they are here.
We have already taken steps towards de-colonizing our curriculum and ensuring our reading lists do not promote bias and inequalities. And through our units we encourage our students to engage with issues of problematic cultural heritage and history, seeking to foster in the student body a deep understanding of different cultures and historic periods. These are more than academic endeavours; the work our students do in studying cultures other than our own, and periods of history where different attitudes were the norm, should help them develop tolerance of those whose views and culture differ from our own.
There is more we can do. We are encouraging teaching staff to take another look at their syllabi and reading lists, ensuring both that racial matters are addressed where appropriate and that the voices of black and other minority groups are sufficiently represented and heard. Members of the School have developed a suggested reading list to inform this work. Students will also receive reading recommendations, and our induction programme for new students will foster a reflexion on race in our discipline. The School research seminars in 2020/21 will be devoted to the theme of Decolonizing Modern Languages. We will also seek ways to continue to diversify the languages we teach beyond European languages.
In our recent EDI climate audit few students or staff reported discrimination and microaggression on grounds of race or ethnicity, but we accept that this is still not good enough. We aim for a future when no-one will feel such discrimination and where all can thrive regardless of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, disability or social background. We will encourage the reporting of any incidents, even minor ones, so the causes can be addressed.
Diversity training is compulsory for all staff. The planned roll out across the School of additional Unconscious Bias training to staff was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but it will be replaced with an online tutorial, which will also be available to students. We will encourage engagement with the training for staff through Departmental Away Days and, for students, through our student reps and induction activities.
We will work with our Senior Tutor, with the SU Student Inclusion Officer, and with the Arts Faculty BAME Student Advocates to review our activities and find ways to reach out to students. At the same time, we recognise that the emotional and practical work of anti-racism cannot be carried out disproportionately by the BAME members of our community: those who benefit from the structures and systems we live within are best-placed to do this work and should shoulder the responsibility for effecting positive change. It is vital that all of us (and especially those of us who do not come from BAME backgrounds) educate ourselves on these matters.
We will work with national organizations such as the University Council of Modern Languages and subject associations to encourage further steps towards decolonizing our discipline.
Statement from the UoB BAME Staff Network and resources to support people of colour.