On 22 July I updated you on the actions that we have been taking to address racism within our University community. 

We have remained committed to taking both immediate and longer-term action and to ensuring that our actions make a real and positive difference to the experiences of Black students and staff. 

Throughout the summer months our Tackling Racism Working Group has been providing leadership on the University’s response. The group is convened on my behalf by Monica Illsley, Chief of Staff and co-chaired by Dr Hannah Gibson and Dr Kevin Lu and consists of student and staff representatives from across the University.

Using the views and suggestions gathered from our community through the initial listening phase, an immediate action plan was developed and has been implemented over the last few months. A new Tackling Racism webpage provides an overview of some of the work that is already underway. This includes seeking to close the award gap between Black and white students, and work being led by Professor Madeline Eacott to take action to decolonise the curriculum (a fund has been established to help specific projects happen and this was promoted recently). We are developing BAME student and staff mentoring schemes and, having run and promoted a broad range of events to celebrate Black History Month, further events are taking place this month and being planned for later in the academic year.

The Tackling Racism Working Group is encouraging the sharing across our community of resources and support services, and of best practice from other institutions and organisations. Our staff and student directories now feature updated resources, articles, examples of best practice, and sources of support. This work is ongoing; we are committed to continuing to tackle racism at the University of Essex.

Work is also underway within many of our academic departments including early action being taken by East 15’s anti-racism action plan and in the School of Health and Social Care, where a dedicated working group has “been able to have 'uncomfortable conversations' which has united us to collectively work towards solutions.” We have also taken this opportunity to share the wonderful research that colleagues are undertaking on issues of race and racism, and to showcase some incredible talent within our alumni community as part of celebrating Black History Month. 

Looking ahead over the next few months, the group will be finalising our institutional Anti-Racism Action Plan that will set out the short, medium and long-term actions that we are taking to seek to tackle racism. This is informed by the analysis that Anam Kuraishi, a PhD student, has undertaken of all the views gathered through the listening phase and by input from the external expert that we have commissioned to provide an objective and critical view of our plans. We are also leading a conversation with a number of our local partners including the Council, the Police, the health service, Community 360 and other voluntary, arts sector and business representatives and hoping we can work together to make a real difference within and beyond our campuses.      

I know that, as well as continuing to welcome further ideas and suggestions for actions, the Tackling Racism Working Group would also be keen to receive articles, examples of good practice, or blogs that help us to maintain the momentum, interest and engagement that we have seen in recent months. Please send any contributions to diversity@essex.ac.uk.  

Anthony Forster