University of Essex

Tackling racism

Two students in a library in discussion

It starts with listening

We’re determined to take rapid action against racism on our campuses and to ensure we’re supporting our staff and students.

 

Racism exists in our everyday lives, including in higher education. Together we must tackle it with zero tolerance.

During summer 2020 we took a new approach to tackling racism in all its forms across our University – and it started with listening to our own community.

First, students and staff were encouraged to complete a survey, asking about their experience of racism at the University of Essex, and what actions they thought needed to take place at the University to address racism. We also gave our community, including alumni, the opportunity to email their feedback directly to the University.

Next, we invited our whole community to a webinar focused on tackling racism to give staff and students the chance to discuss and raise issues directly with our leadership. Then we immediately set up our Tackling Racism Working Group to provide leadership on the University’s response.

Two students laughing
"As a community, we are committed to making a real and immediate difference to the experiences of Black students and staff."
Tackling Racism Working Group action plan  July 2020

Aiming to make a real and immediate difference

As a community, we are committed to making a real and immediate difference to the experiences of Black students and staff. It is important to remember that this work is not new. Members of our communities, particularly those of us from BAME backgrounds, have been tackling racism head-on for years. However, we believe that this most recent wave of activism and action brings with it the potential to finally confront issues, and take action as a university community and with our partners in the local community. 

Trust and transparency

The hundreds of responses from our community have given us a greater understanding of the measures we need to put in place to ensure students and staff feel protected. And we must have trusted and transparent ways to report incidences of racism both on and off-campus. These, and many other themes emerged from listening to our staff, students and alumni, such as decolonising the curriculum, and the need for increased access for BAME students to postgraduate research opportunities. The Tackling Racism Working Group is now devising short, medium and long-term actions.

Professor Anthony Forster
"We want to be held to account in making rapid progress to address racism where it exists on our campuses... We have to ensure the lived experience is a regular and consistent focus for each of us as individuals, and informs all our planning and decision-making processes."
Anthony Forster Vice-Chancellor, University of Essex

Our actions

Reporting incidents

  • We will gather and act on experiences of racism on and off-campus more effectively.
  • We will tackle racist incidents through improvements to our Report and Support service.
  • We will improve communication about what action has been taken. 

Education

  • We will address our institutional award gap between BAME and white students.
  • We will pay particular attention to actions that seek to close the award gap between Black and white students.
  • We are actively drawing up a plan to decolonise the curriculum, including developing resources to support departments.
  • We will ensure increased access for Black students to postgraduate research opportunities.

Staff recruitment and development

  • We will ensure improved representation within senior leadership roles.
  • Anti-racism will be included in our essential training for staff and students.
  • We will improve communications about what we are doing to address racism.
  • We will address workload allocations to ensure they adequately reflect equality, diversity and inclusion roles and responsibilities .
  • Staff and students who take on this additional work will be properly recognised.
  • Our support services will be more responsive to, and developed to better support Black students and staff.
"We have started on our journey to decolonise our curriculum, and we will continue to share updates through our student and staff news channels and blogs." 
Tackling Racism Working Group action plan

Committed to our principles

As our Essex Student Charter states: "At Essex, we are a community. A diverse, global and inclusive community; a community that supports and encourages and respects every one of its members... You will respect your fellow students equally, regardless of their background or characteristics."

We are committed to the five guiding principles of the Race Equality Charter. This sits alongside our other initiatives to promote the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion. This includes requiring all departments to apply for an Athena SWAN (gender equality) awards, our pledge to honour the Armed Forces Covenant, and our application for University of Sanctuary status.

Three students near EBS building
We will address our institutional award gap between BAME and white students, and we will pay particular attention to actions that seek to close the award gap between Black and white students.
Tackling Racism Working Group action plan  JULY 2020

Education, research and events

Education

Decolonising the curriculum

We have started on our journey to decolonise our curriculum, and we will continue to share updates through our student and staff news channels and blogs. Our departments are all taking action on this issue and our academics are also part of important discussions across disciplines. We are developing a suite of resources within our Staff Directory to support departments to decolonise their curricula, and these include the Achieving Potential Toolkit. 

 

East 15 Acting School's Anti-Racism Action Plan

Following members of East 15's Black student and alumni community coming forward to powerfully express experiences of racism, East 15 has acknowledged it must tackle racism head on at a systemic level and in everyday activity. Following consultation with members of its Black student and alumni community, the School has devised its Anti-Racism Action Plan which is now being implemented.

 

School of Health and Social Care

Through discussions with staff and students, our School of Health and Social Care had learnt of individual personal experiences of racism and is taking action to end this now, and bring about positive and lasting change. Through a new Working Group that has staff and student representation, chaired by Dr Winifred Eboh; Professor Victoria Joffe and Dr Christopher Green, the School aims to open sensitive, transparent and honest dialogue and identify clear actions in three main areas of health and wellness, education and curriculum, and placement and racism. 

These subgroups will report back in November 2020 with clear actions that the School needs to take and resources needed to realise these actions. The group states that: “This process has enabled us as a School to be open and transparent about the experiences of racism amongst our staff and students. We have been able to have 'uncomfortable conversations' which has united us to collectively work towards solutions.”

science student
"We will ensure increased access for Black students to postgraduate research opportunities."
Tackling Racism Working Group action plan

Research 

Research focused on racism

At Essex, we recognise that UKRI and other research funding bodies such as Wellcome are increasingly looking to universities to demonstrate their commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion through research and by encouraging inclusive and healthy research cultures.

In the article, Our work on race, the UKRI says: "Racism has been brought to the forefront of everyone’s mind in recent weeks (read UK Research and Innovation’s statement on Black Lives Matter) but research into race and ethnicity is something our community has been working on for decades.

The UKRI has also published this UKRI viewpoint article: We must reshape the system so it genuinely values and supports difference. In addition, the British Academy states in this article on equality, diversity and inclusion, that: "The British Academy's vision is for a humanities and social sciences community that is genuinely diverse. The Academy will focus on bringing about real change in equality, diversity and inclusion at the institution and in the wider sector."

Our research focused on racism includes ethnicity and gender, differences in subjective wellbeing and health inequalities, the colonialism of human rights, and the Grenfell Tower disaster. 

Research 

ISER

The Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), which is based at Essex, is home to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Research Group led by Senior Research Fellow Dr Alita Nandi. The aim of the group is to undertake cross departmental and cross-disciplinary research to address inequalities. Dr Nandi conducts empirical research primarily in the areas of ethnicity and gender, specifically investigating differences in subjective wellbeing, such as life satisfaction, and mental health, as well as economic wellbeing, such as income, and wages. Contact Dr Alita Nandi if you would like to find out more about the work of the group. 

Dr Cara Booker, Research Fellow and Graduate Director, University of Essex at ISER tells us why, in this blog article, systemic racism is the missing factor to understanding health inequalities.

Department of Sociology

Professor Colin Samson has recently joint-authored a book with Dr Carlos Gigoux Gramegna, Deputy Director of the Centre for Migration Studies at Essex, The Colonialism of Human Rights. The book analyses the many common colonial processes which indigenous peoples continue to experience under the dominion of states, and shows that similar processes of dispossession and violation of rights occur in First and Third World countries.

Professor John Preston, is Deputy Dean (Research) within our Faculty of Social Sciences and Economic, and Social Research Council (ESRC) Leadership Fellow in Conflict, Crime and Security.  John works on the sociology of disasters, emergencies and existential threat, and the sociology of education with reference to equity, race, class, Higher Education, Vocational Education and Adult Education. His book, Grenfell Tower Preparedness, Race and Disaster Capitalism was published in 2019.

Ayse Guveli, a Reader in the Department of Sociology, whose research interests mainly comprise stratification and social mobility, international migration, religion, life course, families and gender, has co-authored with Malcolm Brynin Understanding the ethnic pay gap in Britain

In the paper, Mitigating the Hostile Environment: the role of the workplace in EU migrant experience of Brexit, Dr Renee Luthra, Senior Lecturer, asks how Brexit was experienced by highly skilled migrants in a sector reliant on EU migration, and the ways that employment in higher education buffered staff against its impact.

Also from the Department of Sociology, Dr Neli Demireva has co-authored with Visiting Fellow Wouter Zwysen research that explores how, as migrants and ethnic minorities in the UK are found to be disadvantaged in their access to work and earnings, little is known about the characteristics of the jobs they occupy, in Ethnic and migrant penalties in job quality in the UK: the role of residential concentration and occupational clustering.

PhD student Nosakhare Imaghodo is pursuing his studies at Essex in the field of inequalities and social justice. He gathers the opinions of Black British activists to examine how racism is reproduced in Britain, and with their perspectives, what could be the solution to all forms of racism in Britain. His research includes systemic racism, anti-Black racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Essex Business School

Dr Maria Hudson, Senior Lecturer in  Organisational Studies and Human Resources, whose background is in employment and social policy research and analysis, has undertaken a wide range of research projects for numerous sponsors including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Department for Work and Pensions, Acas, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Low Pay Commission. Dr Hudson's current research activities have included undertaking an Acas-funded research project on the management of mental health at work, drawing on the findings to co-organise a workshop for Essex based employers on the promotion of positive mental health.

School of Law

Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Senior Lecturer in the School of Law and our Human Rights Centre, is the current UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion having previously served as UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran. Dr Shaheed is a member of the Advisory Committee on Interfaith Dialogue at the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and Responsibility to Protect and the founding Chair of the Universal Rights Group. Dr Shaheed's teaching includes Human Rights: Theories and Applications, Contemporary Issues in Human Rights and Cultural Diversity, Human Rights, and International Relations and Diplomacy.

School of Philosophy and Art History

Our School of Philosophy and Art History has a research cluster on Feminism, Race and Gender led by Dr Lorna Finlayson, which brings together academics from Philosophy through regular forums such as the Race and Gender Colloquium, to explore fast-moving and often highly contentious debates around race and gender as social categories and their political consequences.

Essex Pathways

Dr Ilaria Boncori, Deputy Dean (Education) and Senior Lecturer has compiled and edited a volume of The Essex Reader: on Race, Ethnicity and Inclusion, which has contributions form Essex students and staff. Ilaria's current research interests lie in the intersections between identity, race, the body, gender, sexuality and processes of organising. 

Postgraduate student in discussion
"We must reshape the system so it genuinely values and supports difference."
UK Research and Innovation viewpoint article

Events

Our events programme

We are looking at how our talks and events programme can be reflective of the concerns of our whole community throughout the year.

 

Black History Month 

Black History Month is in October 2020. We have a programme of events to celebrate throughout the month, including a webinar on the impact of Black Lives Matter and a discussion on Black literature.

Essex Cultural Diversity Project is also supporting Black History Month this year, and has compiled details on a number of events taking place across Essex, organised by friends and collaborators of the project. Mercury Theatre in Colchester is also offering a masterclass and discussion event. 

We’re also sharing the stories of Black alumni who inspire us with their passion, dedication and innovation on our University of Essex Alumni twitter feed.

Other events 

In July 2020 an international expert on racial justice delivered this year’s Human Rights Centre Lecture. E. Tendayi Achiume, who has served since 2017 as the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and who is the fifth person to hold this role and the first woman, delivered this Fourth Annual Lecture of the Human Rights Centre. The title was “Racial Borders: The Urgency of a Racial Justice Critique of International Borders and Migration."

Student on campus near large information board
"At Essex, we are a community. A diverse, global and inclusive community; a community that supports and encourages and respects every one of its members..."
Essex Student Charter

Further resources

An important part of the action being taken to tackle racism on our campuses is to encourage the sharing across our community of our own resources and support services, but also articles, and examples of best practice from other institutions and organisations.

Our tackling racism information in our Staff Directory and our Student Directory is dedicated to sharing information on help and support, forums for our community, training and development, and other useful resources both in the UK and internationally. It also includes useful links to Advance HE resources.

We have also updated our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student information within the Student Directory, which now has more information and guidance, such as contacting support services, communications, decolonising the curriculum student blogs, and useful links to careers support.  

If you would like to share a blog, or contribute with an idea in any other way, please email diversity@essex.ac.uk

Please visit our staff and student directories for more help and support, details of forums for our community, training and development, and other useful resources.