As Chief Executive of the Students’ Union it is not common for me to make statements - our amazing student leaders are usually, and rightly, the voice of the SU.
But today I find myself in a unique position where, after reading the experiences of Black students’ involvement with the Students’ Union, I need to publicly speak to our Black students.
I have failed you.
As someone who has worked in the Students’ Union movement for the past 25 years, and championed many causes both on the streets and online I have not spent enough time in the 10 years I have worked at Essex listening to the views and acting on the concerns of Black students.
I need to do better.
We as staff need to do better.
At Essex we have a strong history of Black student leaders and Black student officers who have represented the voices of black students and pushed the Students’ Union and the University to change.
If we are honest with ourselves we have not always done enough to make that change happen, for that we are sorry.
Starting today we are looking at all areas of the work that the Students’ Union carries out and making sure that the views of Black students are heard and acted upon.
So today, with immediate effect, we commit to the following changes;
1. We recognise that the diversity of our permanent staff is not yet reflective of our society. For this reason we will be carrying out a complete review of our recruitment practices to make sure that we are doing all we can to open our recruitment opportunities to black applicants and people of colour.
2. Earlier this year, in response to reports of racism involving Sub Zero door staff, recommendations were made to the way that our student nightclub operates. The outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent closure of Sub Zero halted the implementation of these recommendations so I have asked our Director of Services, Activities and Support to review the actions and make sure that these are being carried out as a priority.
3. In light of new concerns raised, we will be seeking further, honest feedback and suggestions from our Black student members on how the Students’ Union’s services and activities can be improved. We will work on this feedback with our Black student representatives to make sure that Black students have a permanent voice in the operation of our services and activities.
4. In recognition of the importance of having Black students represented at the highest levels of Students’ Union decision making and accountability, we will be recommending to our Trustee Board that for a minimum period of 12 months we co-opt a Black Students Officer to the Trustee Board.
5. We recognise that unconscious bias exists within the Students’ Union and that we have to address this. We will start this by introducing training and resources for all staff to make sure that we do better in understanding the experience of Black students and staff.
We recognise each of the above actions will be a step in the right direction but that there will be much more work to be done beyond this.
As your Students’ Union it is not enough for us to be ‘not racist’, we must be anti-racist.
For as long as there is inequality we promise that we are going to keep talking about it, exposing it and stand with our Black students and staff to drive change.
UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX STUDENTS’ UNION
On behalf of the Essex SU permanent staff team
12th June 2020.