The last ten days have been dominated by the horrific killing of George Floyd in police custody in America, and the outpouring of anger at the continued scourge of racial injustice across society.
The rage at racially motivated police brutality has found an extraordinary resonance across the world as evidence of the sharply disproportionate impact on Covid-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities has become ever clearer.
For many of our black students, and our other students of colour, this has been a hugely painful and personal moment. I am writing to assure you that we stand with you, we acknowledge the overriding importance and urgency of tackling racism and racial injustice, and we celebrate and thank you for your contribution to ARU and your determination to build a better future.
If there is any support that we at ARU can offer you at this painful time, please do let us know. You might like to visit our Health and Wellbeing pages, where you can find details of our counselling and wellbeing support which is available to all students at all times. And, if you have been affected by any incident of harassment or discrimination, please report it using our Unsilenced tool. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that everyone in our community is treated with dignity and respect.
ARU’s mission – Transforming lives through innovative, inclusive and entrepreneurial education and research – has inclusion at its heart, and we take huge pride in the diversity of our student body, with around a third of our students identifying as BAME. And yet we know that we are not immune to systemic racism: at ARU, as across the university sector, the evidence tells us that we must do more to achieve equality of experience and outcomes for our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students.
Right across ARU, staff, students and our Students’ Union are working with dedication and creativity to promote equality, diversity and inclusion, and I thank them, warmly, for their commitment. We have a range of programmes of work underway with our students, our Students’ Union, and external partners. Our BAME Advocates programme, for example, has gathered feedback from several hundred current students on their experience, undertaken research, and run events to raise awareness of racial disadvantage, catalysing change across the institution. Staff and students are working together to stamp out hate crime, racism and harassment, and we have recently developed our Unsilenced reporting tool, enabling students to report any incidence of bullying, discrimination, harassment or hate crime, and to obtain the support they need. And we have extensive work underway to diversify our curriculum.
But while there is good reason to believe we are making progress across all these fronts – for example, in the very significant decline in the awarding (or attainment) gap between our black students and our white students – we know this is not enough.
So, we commit to doing more, in partnership, now and for the long term. In all our planning and decision making we will hold racial justice and racial equality in the front of our minds. We will consult closely with our BAME students and staff, to better understand their experiences and priorities, and we will sponsor research into promoting inclusion and tackling racial inequalities within and beyond ARU. And from this listening and learning, we will identify and invest in concrete, effective steps to promote racial justice for our community.
Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor
8 June 2020