Blog by Stacy Johnson MBE and Sarah Sharples (Race Equality Charter Co-Chairs)
As many of you will be aware, for over two years now our University community has been reflecting upon and having conversations about our record, current practices and ambitions for race equality, diversity and inclusion. This work has been done in preparation for the University of Nottingham submission for a Race Equality Charter (REC) bronze award in July 2020.
As part of this activity, in May 2019, the REC self-assessment team (SAT), who are putting together the application, ran a survey of staff and students to capture the views and perceptions of all staff and students, gain insight into the experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff and students.
These data are now being analysed and interpreted to help us identify and understand some of the key issues affecting the University’s BME community. We are using the findings to inform the development of an action plan which will prioritise activities and interventions that will improve the experience, representation and success of BME students and staff. The data and findings will also help us to increase the extent to which the University capitalises on having an ethnically-diverse community which will enhance our research, teaching, public engagement and social impact.
What staff and students told us
From staff, issues included reports that BME colleagues were more aware of racial issues and tensions within the wider community. They were also more likely to report that they had personally been a victim of racial harassment or discrimination, both in the local area, and on campus. BME staff were also more likely to perceive inequality in pay and progression.
Different issues emerged as priorities for students. Firstly, they reported that the University and the city together had a clear role in providing them with a sense of belonging and inclusion. However, they felt that in general there was a lower level of confidence in leading discussion of issues around race in academic settings. It was also noted that BME students were less confident that discrimination and harassment at student-focussed events would be addressed and not be tolerated.
For the self-assessment team - which includes students, staff and stakeholders of all ethnicities - some of the issues highlighted in our survey and data analysis have been uncomfortable to face. The issues that have been illuminated are complex, significant, and require careful thought and discussion to identify appropriate actions that we all need to take. We have been encouraged, uplifted and proud of the courage and willingness of our whole community to engage with the issues.
Toward the end of 2019 we started running a series of focus groups and discussion sessions, led by our dedicated REC staff and student groups to further explore some of the lines of enquiry generated by the survey. We are now integrating these findings into our REC submission, which will include an action plan. In the coming months the whole University community will be able to engage with this next step as we share and discuss the action plan with key groups particularly, our BME staff and student networks.
The Race Equality Charter process is providing a clear and directive impetus to our wider work around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, but the submission is only the beginning. We will be continuing to work together to identify and address challenges experienced by our BME staff and the value and opportunities they bring to the University. We look forward to working inclusively and collaboratively with you all on this important action.
21 January 2019