Hello, my name is Asha Ali and I'm the BAME Officer.
My goal for this year is to have a year of setting foundations for BAME students. I am currently working with the University of Essex and the Students' Union to create a committee, where student support and the promise 1 SU department (education) work together to find a solution for the BAME attainment gap. This was one of the things I wished to focus on when writing my manifesto.
the university is currently looking into the BAME attainment gap – myself and VP Education, Osei, are looking forward to working with them to represent the students and to figure out the issue and help set ground work for the upcoming years.
VP Education, Osei, and I, along with SU Staff, Student activists and student support staff sat in a meeting with the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Health as well as the Government department’s Pro-Vice Chancellor education to discuss the BAME Attainment gap at The University of Essex.
- Discussion of the name “BAME attainment gap” might be changed to “ethnicity award/attainment gap” to avoid this generalization that all PoC (people of colour) are this homogenous group who are identical.
- We were shown 5 years’ worth of statistics, which clearly indicated the underperformance of non-white students at Essex.
- Studies have been done at Essex to focus on “internationalizing the curriculum” – yet to see if this will help limit the whiteness of curriculum at Essex.
- Course reps to flag up any issues within departments – if their curriculum is too white, discuss with lecturers on diversifying the reading list.
- There is a greater emphasis now on creating anonymous marking throughout the university. However, some departments also show the student’s ID photograph, which can also be a cause for concern.
- We discussed involving unconscious bias training with the university and union staff – sometimes the discrimination is so deep rooted you are not aware you are doing it, therefore if there is more training professionals will, hopefully, be able to distinguish which behaviours are biased and which are objective.
- Discussing the importance of role models – increasing visibility of PoC staff within the university and union. Role models are important!
Black history month
Another one of my manifesto points that I have worked on is creating a Kick Ass Black History month. With the amazing support of VP international, Christine, we have planned 11 events for Black History month ranging from the ACS Heritage show, BAME in Government talk with Politics Society, a conference (4 topics - debate, panel, discussion), "for colored girls" play and many more.
NUS Black Sabbs
In August I attended the Black Sabbs NUS event as the BAME Officer and we discussed the ways in which we can help and be the voice of BAME students on campus. From discussing the concept of "whiteness in curriculum" - based on the fact that a lot of university used literature is very much western. We also had a session on PREVENT and the dangers of labelling students as being prone to radicalisation.
Monday the 26th I will be holding the first BAME forum. This will be based on urban nights on campus and the reason why the SU is no longer holding these events. John Valerkou, Deputy Director of student support, and Josh O'Connor, VP services and communications, will be attending to answer any questions students may have.
Subsequent to this BAME forum, I discussed the events of this forum with the BAME students to see what they thought and they did not feel it achieved much in the ‘coko’ front. Many students believe they are not being offered the smallest thing (in terms of BAME representation on campus), and due to that some have expressed a lack of faith within the SU.
Action points: arranging a BAME forum early February to discuss these issues and talk to the ents department to see where the main issues lie.
Updates: Due to the introduction of mixers, the BAME forum will now take place on the first week of March where I will be delivering some good news to our students regarding urban nights on campus.
3rd term: BAME students have now been made aware that urban nights are back.
Update on action: First coko of this academic year will be on the 28th of April. To make sure that the event runs smoothly, myself and some of the exec team and some BAME students will monitor the night to make sure it is acceptable for everyone involved.
Updates: First Coko was highly successful and sold out. Student’s really want this back as a frequent event. Therefore, I will be meeting with next year’s BAME officer, Leshandra, to work out how to often this event should be and how it can be a student run event. Last year coko had student DJs and was primarily known for the heavy involvement by students and I wasn’t to bring that back.
Also, I would like to add a personal thank you to Josh, Osei and Ali for tirelessly pushing through coko to come back.
This term I will be working with different societies and students to invite speakers to the university, ranging from the NUS Black students officer and the Black Student movement, to Akala, Doreen Lawrence and Diane Abbott. The issues they will cover include “Whiteness in curriculum”, “white privilege”, “police brutality in the UK” and “being BAME in UK government”. I believe that these are fundamental in order for students across our campuses to see how BAME students are affected in everyday life and how, we, as a society can work to better ourselves and work towards becoming a more aware campus in terms of BAME issues.
Aside from the BAME forums, I would like to talk more with BAME students and find out what they want in a more relaxed environment. Every few weeks I will be working with different societies and students to host a continental or societal mixer in top bar or level up.
The first BAME mixer of this year will be focusing on students with an Asian background. It will be held in top bar on the 29th of February at 7pm. Being in an informal setting will allow me to interact with students in a way that is not intimidating.
The next BAME mixer to be held will be will be a Q&A session with SU staff from senior members to the door staff. We believe that this will be useful as students will be able to ask them questions directly without a middle man.
The first mixer of next term will be focusing on Black students.
A few students and I are currently arranging a date to have an event to oppose prevent on our campuses. This event will include some guest speakers, panels, information sessions and workshops. For anyone who wishes to take part they are encouraged to contact myself at email@example.com
University of Suffolk Campus SU
Mid-February I was invited to USC SU to come and speak at their council meeting to promote a BAME officer at their union. They had discussed introducing liberation officers however some students had some questions or objections. After delivering a speech on the necessity of having a BAME officer and the work we do at Essex, the motion went through to introduce liberation officers at USC SU.
Decolonise Essex Week
Starting the 25th of April until the 29th of April, myself, the VP Education, ethics and environment officer and a group of students will be holding events for “Decolonise Essex Week”. There will be speakers, panels and workshops on all these events.
The week’s events are:
Monday 25th: Decolonise your mind + Why is my curriculum white? 6pm – The Hexagon
Tuesday 26th: Students Not Suspects: Preventing Prevent. 6pm – LTB1
Social in TopBar. 9:30pm
Friday 29th: Orientalism: The culture of war. 6pm – LTB7
Urban and afro-electronic Party. 9:30pm – Frangos
Update: thanks to the students who planned these events, these events were very well attended and very interesting.
Aadam from the Black Students’ Campaign (and now Black Students’ Officer elect) came to speak to Essex students about the racially profiling Prevent campaign, and how the BSC has been fighting this racist agenda through the Students Not Suspects: Preventing Prevent Campaign.
Last term I was elected to be the Black Student’s Conference delegate. This weekend 27/5/16-29/5/16 I was able to go to the conference and vote on motions that would affect BAME students at all our campuses.
Furthermore, due to the fact that we’re going through a referendum now on whether we should disaffiliate from the NUS or not, this conference could not have come at a better time. Being at the BSC really reiterated the efforts and time the Black Students’ Officer and the Black Students NEC Committee put in to fight for us in society, a national political level or even internationally.
Therefore, this week, along with a few students officers (Essex officers and NUS officers), I will be campaigning for the remain campaign. Essex is not better off without the NUS. We are stronger unified. This does not scream “Essex Rebels”, it suggests conformity. Essex don’t conform.