We know as a membership organisation with a number of BAME students that we need to do more to be explicitly anti-racist. As a campaigning organisation, we have the responsibility and opportunity to influence, to make change and to show solidarity with our BAME students.
We have taken some time to meet with Arfana Ali, our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Officer, and Illka Ester S Jose Maria, our African Caribbean Society President, to listen to and understand their experiences of systemic racism. Whilst we are clear it is not for BAME people to have to continually educate White people on racism and it is on us to be proactive, it is also important we do not go off in isolation trying to resolve these challenges on our own.
We have set up an SU Challenge group that we have invited the BAME Officer and ACS President to join along with the President and CEO of Chester Students’ Union. We will explore how we can further widen that group when we meet in August.
Your Elected Officers have been working on their priorities for the coming year and have made equality, diversity and inclusion the primary focus. As your Students’ Union, we want to celebrate the successes of all our BAME students, past, present and future. Celebrating events such as Black History Month and challenging the University on aspects such as decolonising the curriculum is just the start of making lasting impactful change for our BAME students. We will be creating a platform on our website with anti-racism resources available to all students, so we can learn more to support our BAME students and create an environment of allyship and aim to have all our society committee members trained in equality and diversity, so all students feel welcome to participate in societies. It is our collective responsibility to tackle racism, and as your Students’ Union, we want to champion that change for our students.
Across the organisation, we are going to be providing training to support the education of issues around systemic racism and race equity at work, as well as providing a range of resources that will educate us on being an explicitly anti-racist organisation.
We will also be undertaking research over the next six months that will develop our next strategic plan. An explicit part of this will be to understand the views and opinions of BAME students and how they want and need CSU to support and represent them. As part of our engagement work, we will be undertaking a diversity census to gather data on who we currently engage with and, crucially, who we do not. We want our participation to reflect the diversity of our members and where it does not, we will take action.
As your Students’ Union, we recognise that this is a systemic problem and we are committed to supporting all our students during this distressing time and beyond. We are a third-party Hate Crime Reporting Centre and we encourage all our students who experience racist hate crime to report it through our Advice Service.
“It is not enough to not be racist, you must be actively anti-racist.” – Angela Davis
Eleanor Lewis (CSU President) and Matt Webber (CSU Chief Executive Officer)