University commits to tackling racial harassment in UK higher education
Pro Vice Chancellor Nona McDuff, outlines how the University continues to take on board the recommendations set out by the Universities UK (UUK) advisory group - designed to tackle racial harassment in UK higher education.
The advisory group – on which Nona sits - was informed by experts in the field and carried out in-depth consultation with panels of exclusively Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff with lived experience of racial harassment.
The recommendations come just over a year after the Equality and Human Rights Commission uncovered widespread evidence of racial harassment on university campuses.
Describing her contributions to the report’s findings, Nona says: “It was a pleasure to work with a diverse range of people over the last year to develop an action-oriented report. We challenged ourselves throughout the process to ensure providers could see practical ways to confront racial harassment, to foster an environment where race and racism were discussed and how to take action with pace in their own institutions.”
She continued: Here at Solent University, we acknowledge that – in all walks of life - racism exists and recognise that it occurs overtly and through microaggressions. We will continue to take action whenever it occurs.”
The resulting recommendations include practical steps that all university leaders can implement immediately, including:
- Publicly commit priority status to tackling racial harassment
- Engage directly with students and staff with experience of racial harassment
- Review current policies and procedures and develop new institution-wide strategies for tackling racial harassment
- Improve awareness and understanding of racism, racial harassment, white privilege and microaggressions among all staff and students, including through anti-racist training
- Ensure expected behaviours for online behaviour are clearly communicated to students and staff, as well as sanctions for breaches
- Develop and introduce reporting systems for incidents of racial harassment
- Collect data on reports of incidents and share regularly with senior staff and governing bodies
The guidance calls on university leaders to acknowledge where there are issues in their institutions – citing racial harassment, a lack of diversity among senior leaders, the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment gap and ethnicity pay gaps among staff as evidence.
As part of Solent University’s continuing response to these issues, Solent has increased BAME representation at senior staff levels and launched its own BAME staff group and Equality and Diversity Committee.
The University has also registered its commitment to the principles of Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter, which aims to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education.
In addition, as part of its commitment in the University’s Civic Charter - to be a fair, diverse and cohesive University that challenges and tackles social inequality and, to reflect our local community - Solent aims to increase enrolments from the black and Asian community to represent 20% of its student population by 2024.
Nona added: “Community is at the heart of what we do and who we are at Solent. We are proud of our track record of supporting and working with BAME people and other partners across Southampton and we continue to strengthen our commitment to creating a city where Black people can thrive.
“We will continue to raise and support the aspirations of those who wish to learn, whatever their background; educate those who want to succeed in life; and produce graduates who are ready to become leaders in their industries and role models for their communities. By working together, the sector, policy makers and communities can make 2021 the year that sees meaningful change.”