Letter calls on St Andrews University to take action to support BAME students

The letter calls for changes.The letter calls for changes.
The letter calls for changes.
The University of St Andrews must take action and apologise for not supporting Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students, an open letter has stated.

Students signed a letter sent to the university’s principal, professor Sally Mapstone earlier this week, which was set up in response to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests around the world.

The letter asks that diversity policies are put in place and that these are communicated to all students, while also calling for an apology.

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The letter states: “We are also writing to you to ask that an official apology and a pledge of sincere support to BAME students are issued, acknowledging the university’s systematic failure to support BAME students and to provide a non-white-centered curriculum and learning experience.”

It also claims that the institution has not stopped playing a role in the mechanisms of discrimination and says the university must acknowledge how it “continues to support a system that is rooted in the exclusion of black people.”

The letter also states its concerns regarding the racial make up of staff and students, and the curriculum, and questions whether enough is being done to attract BAME staff members and protect them from bullying in the workplace.

It claims that the university is making “very limited effort” in its attempts to diversify the staff and student body.

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It concludes: “You may not be able to change the university’s past, but you can shape its future. You may not be able to support black students who graduated years ago, but you can support black students who still experience the university’s failures.”

The university responded to the letter, explaining the actions it has taken.

A spokesman for the University of St Andrews responded: “The university is undertaking a series of actions and activities to address imbalances related to ethnicity, including in relation to equal pay.

“The university’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is core to its Strategy 2018-2023, and in its key enabler, the People Strategy.

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“Improved ethnic diversity and inclusion is a particular priority.

“Building on one of only two Staff BAME Networks in Scottish universities, a formal Institutional Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Equality Group was put in place to examine progress in relation to the measures we have established in our published in our EDI staff and student reports, and to identify actions and best practice to address any inequalities. The EDI statistical reports are being published for first time this year and include the staff ethnicity population, pay and promotion gap data and the student ethnicity population, retention and attainment gap.

“Recruitment and promotion procedures have been revised to encourage applications from underrepresented groups.

“St Andrews is currently undertaking work to strengthen guidance for the creation of appointment panels.

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“The university requires mandatory unconscious bias and diversity training for recruitment and promotion board members. Other measures include increasing interview consistency and minimising travel requirements, where appropriate, by using accessible technological solutions.

“The university remains committed to attracting more BAME staff applicants, with St Andrews being the first and only Scottish university to promote in the following media channels: the Windrush Magazine; the Black History Month Magazine and website; the BAME Education and Careers Guide Magazine; and vacancies in the Black Female Professors Forum website. Building on this, the university is engaging with BAME members of the staffing body to ascertain other BAME focused media over the next academic year.

“Since reporting on equalities under the Scottish Specific Duties in 2013, the number of staff disclosed in BAME data at the university has been increasing both in terms of headcount and as a percentage.

“Within the HE sector, the university became the first to sign-up to The Prince’s Responsible Business Network’s Race at Work Charter, and is working towards the Advance HE Race Equality Charter.

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“To ensure that the curriculum is reflective of the students in our St Andrews community, we have begun an audit of the inclusive curriculum initiatives currently active across the university, with a focus on practice which aims to enhance the curriculum with respect to race and ethnicity.

“The audit will be conducted with a view to identifying areas of improvement and ensuring that all students, including those who identify as BAME, see themselves reflected in the curriculum they experience at St Andrews.

“We are keen to hear all views on how the University is progressing on any areas that are identified as creating disadvantage for BAME staff and students. We welcome dialogue and encourage engagement and ideas for change.”

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