Over the past two weeks, the university held its first ever Diversity Festival – a fortnight of events, workshops, discussions and performances to celebrate and embrace everyone’s differences.
In times where circumstances may have made a lot of us feel isolated and alone, the festival was a resounding success in bringing together our university community and showcasing some of the finest talent we have all around us.
Overall, more than 40 centrally-led and local events took place for the festival, with highlights including a talk around challenging conversations with our Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, a panel discussion exploring period inequality chaired by Stacy Johnson MBE and featuring Nadia Whittome MP, and a workshop hosted with the Department for Work and Pensions offering practical advice for carers.
I was honoured to be part of a fascinating panel discussion myself, chaired by Dr Mohamed Elmaghbri, which examined the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on minority groups and was heartened to hear the thoughts of all of the panellists about how we can work together through future strategies, policies and ways of working to address the increasing disparities we are seeing between different societal groups.
I have learned a lot from the events that I have attended, and have also taken advantage of listening to some of the events on ‘catch up’ whilst I’ve been out walking or gardening. I’ve been moved and, at times, saddened, by the stories that people have shared, but also felt exceptionally proud of the commitment shown by so many of our staff and students to really make a difference and help people, particularly over the last year, during the Covid pandemic.
I’d like to personally thank everyone involved in the festival; from our guest contributors, to the people behind the scenes who made everything come together, to the staff, students and alumni that took part in meaningful discussions, submitted images to our Five Ways to Wellbeing Expo and watched the moving performances and interviews. It feels unfair to pick out anyone when so many people have been involved in delivering the festival, but I would like to particularly mention Victoria Waring and Julie Thomas, who have conceived, designed and driven this event alongside the festival committee. Content from the keynote events will remain on the Diversity Festival hub for people to view at their leisure, and I strongly recommend that you take some time to take a look.
The incredible work done this year is a step in the right direction, but we know that there is still much to do for a truly inclusive, tolerant university society. Over the past few weeks we have seen national events highlight the significant safety and inequality issues experienced as a result of violence against women, and I will be publishing a separate blog next week to consider these issues and outlining relevant actions within the university community.
Finally, this Sunday is the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In February, we completed our bronze submission to the Race Equality Charter. As part of this submission, which has informed the development of a comprehensive action plan for delivery over the next three years, we commit to becoming an anti-racist university.
This means working together to actively overcome systemic racism within our own university, and within the sector more generally. The work to get to the point of submission of the charter has been significant, and involved detailed analysis of quantitative and qualitative data. But the real work starts here.
Professor Sarah Sharples
Pro-Vice Chancellor for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and People
19 March 2021