University of Edinburgh
Higher education institutions have notoriously failed to achieve ethic minority representation, particularly at the most senior levels. Black and minority ethnic academics in the UK are significantly more likely than white colleagues to move overseas to progress their careers, often due to negative experiences. Has the University done enough? If not, how should we proceed in tackling inequality?
Have your say in the comments section.
Information about Edinburgh University’s strategies for tackling racism can be found on its Embrace Diversity website.
As it happened
We held a discussion on Friday March 11th questioning issues of racism and race equality in the University and academia more broadly, and what steps institutions are taking to tackle inequality. The debate was chaired by Michelle Brown (Head of Social Responsibility and Sustainability Programmes, UofE).
Speakers agreed that Edinburgh University, and academia more broadly, still have much to do to eliminate racism. Discussion centred around forms of racism that persist, and problem-solving how to make race and diversity issues visible as a mainstream challenge.
Dr Rowena Arshad, OBE (Head of Moray House School of Education; Co-Director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland) highlighted the narrative of good race relations in Scotland, and how this means many are complacent about problems we do have. She identified many forms of racism that persist in academia, ranging from recruitment and promotions committee decision-making at the structural level, to overt race-related discrimination incidents experienced by individuals. She suggested that we need a multi-pronged strategy to tackle racism, targeting curricula, university structure and organisation, as well as improving incident report mechanisms.
Shuwanna Aaron (Black and Minority Ethnic Liberation Group Convener, Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA)) identified three types of racism in academia today: institutional discrimination, overt discrimination, and micro-aggression. Further, she shared the stories of undergraduate members of the BME Liberation Group at Edinburgh who have experienced all three forms. She encouraged people to keep their eyes peeled for signs of racism, and not to be a bystander when they see it. Further, if you are challenged as behaving in a way that could be discriminatory, avoid defensiveness and engage with the challenger to learn from the experience.
Prof Jane Norman (Professor of Maternal and Fetal Health; Director of the Edinburgh Tommy’s Centre; Vice Principal, People and Culture) shared a range of empirical evidence demonstrating the size of the problem, and some of the University’s efforts to tackle the problem – including persistence in applying for an Athena Swan Race Equality Charter Award despite a previous unsuccessful application. She advocated for the benefit of both a top-down approach to address structural issues and overt incidents, and a lighter touch approach to foster space for community-wide discussion.