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BAME Action Plan

The BAME Students’ Action Plan Report was written by about 20 BAME Students of the University of St Andrews, in June 2020, to reflect a vision for a racially diverse and inclusive St Andrews.

The Report was presented to multiple members of staff and the administration including the Principal and the Assistant Vice-President (Diversity) at a Virtual Roundtable Conference that was held at the end of June 2020. It features 8 different sections, written by various students, each of which mainly comprises personal experiences, accompanied in most cases by research and data. We have highlighted some key issues and proposed solutions and points of action for both the University and the student body.

Read the full BAME Action Plan Report

Some of the main points are outlined through the accessible summary below.

Academic Schools and Curriculum

This section presents Case Studies, highlighting issues of inclusivity and diversity across Academic Schools. Whilst there is an emphasis on 9 schools, each comprising of personal experiences, opinions, researched information on modules, some of the main problems highlighted across include:

  1. Lack of inclusive and diverse curriculum: Most individuals felt that non-Western themes/topics were either not taught at all, or in some cases, when available, only limited to a small number of honours modules. Readings Lists were often also found to lack alternative perspectives, specifically in the case of ‘Western-centric’ topics.

  2. Lack of BAME Staff/Faculty: There is a massive underrepresentation of BAME Individuals amongst staff and faculty, perhaps even more than amongst students and this requires a re- evaluation of hiring practices. It also emphasizes the need for better support for prospective and current BAME staff. Most students who responded to our survey noted that, as far as they were aware, they had never had a BAME lecturer/tutor.

  3. Inadequate curriculum feedback mechanisms: Students found that due to the lack of a simple and efficient mode of addressing diversity and inclusivity related concerns in an academic context, the process of change was slow and there was a lack of accountability. The Module Evaluation Questionnaires are not adequate by themselves as they are only accessible at the end of the semester, making regular and continuous feedback difficult to include through them.

We acknowledge that the University is making efforts towards inclusivity in curricula through the  Inclusive Curriculum Audit and also working on hiring BAME staff and reviewing recruitment processes. However, the following are a list of some proposed action points that we would like to see incorporated to tackle the issues highlighted above:

  1. Diversifying Existing Module Content

  2. Appreciating non-traditional resources

  3. Making more non-Western-centric modules available, especially at Sub-Honours

  4. Promoting student collaboration in curriculum design, teaching practices, and evaluation procedures of progress, amongst other areas.

  5. Hiring more BAME Staff/Faculty

  6. Inviting external BAME individuals to aid teaching practices

The BAME Students’ Network

Since the writing of this report in June of 2020, there have been significant developments in this area of Student Representation.

The BAME Students' Network, which was an unofficial group drive to petition for Name Blind applications, was made an official Subcommittee of the Students' Association in early August 2020, and now has a full committee of 17 members. The network is currently working in collaboration with other student groups as well as the University to implement some of the actions outlined in this report, with a particular emphasis on inclusive curricula, BAME wellbeing and support, Access and Outreach, Community building, Mentorship and EDI Training amongst others.

The Network will continue to further these goals, and work as a bridge between the Student Body and the University Administration in the upcoming semester and years, to ensure tangible and sustainable change.

The Spence Project

The Spence Projectis a vertically integrated project (VIP) committed to the aim of investigating the historical links to Slavery within the area of St Andrews. Members of the project were inspired by the work of groups such as the Lemon Project at William and Mary, Brown Centre for the Study of Slavery and Justice as well as other UK-based investigations into the use of enslaved people in educational establishments, which have demonstrated not only the need for such research to be undertaken, but the importance this historical knowledge has in informing modern day action and policy within these institutions.

Racial and Discrimination Training

The Racial and Discrimination Training section outlines two goals:

  1. Create University-wide racial equality training

  2. Create an established channel for reporting racism and discrimination

Current problems within the University handling of racial discrimination:

  1. Unacceptable standard of the diversity training introduced as part of matriculation in Semester One

  2. Problems BAME students find in getting help from student services

  3. Lack of a clear mechanism for perpetrators of racial discrimination

    Suggested course of action: Launch an independent investigation into its connections with the enslavement of persons for profit and making these findings publicly accessible to all. Furthermore, we would like to see commitment to future research and education into the study of the trade of enslaved people.

University Leadership

The University of St Andrews is a hierarchical institution. To nurture inclusion and belonging amongst community members, University leaders must set an example by proactively cultivating trusting, open and collaborative environments.

The job descriptions of University leaders must include responsibilities to promote equality, inclusion and diversity, and performance reviews should factor in their respective successes and failures. To make long-term and sustained changes, leaders must be completely transparent, held accountable for their actions and operate on open feedback systems. These factors are intimately linked as leaders must listen to community feedback, use it to shape strategies, implement those strategies, transparently report back to the community the outcome of the strategies, and be held accountable for their successes and failures.

Alumni and Careers

The Alumni and Careers section highlights both the problems BAME students inherently face when entering the job market, and the lack of a substantial BAME alumni network.

The problems faced by BAME students when entering the workplace are diverse, reflecting the heterogeneity of the BAME community. The proven disadvantages faced by certain ethnic minorities as a result of both direct discrimination and unconscious bias necessitate immediate and purposeful action to aid these groups.

This report offers two main actions to be taken to address these problems:

  1. The University should actively seek to direct their donations to projects catered toward uplifting ethnic minority groups.

  2. Improve employability for Men and Women by formalizing a BAME Alumni Network

Study/Work Abroad

Studying or working abroad is a great opportunity for students to learn in different environments, to be challenged and develop various life-long skills.

For students studying languages, it is essential in improving their language skills and enhancing their appreciation of the culture surrounding the language they are studying. However, the two different experiences reported in this section demonstrate there is insufficient support and understanding of how experiences differ for BAME students, who often struggle greatly with issues of race in their host countries.
The University also has limited partnerships with non-Western countries/universities, and we suggest increasing this would be hugely beneficial for both outbound students and increasing diversity within the University. The main proposed actions to remedy the problems identified include:

  1. Establishing a BAME study abroad advisor for each School/department

  2. Ensure study abroad presentations include sections specific for BAME students, discussing racism and clearly outlining who to contact for support and guidance

  3. Setting up a specific team tasked with extending study abroad partnerships to more non-Western countries/universities

Access and Outreach

Improving Access and Outreach efforts at the University is one of the most important steps that needs to be taken to tackle the lack of diversity and representation at St Andrews.

Having more BAME Students at the University will not only improve the experience of current students, but also help in tackling issues linked to discrimination and racism. Whilst the University is engaged in Outreach initiatives, these need to be expanded upon to specifically target BAME areas and demographics. Working in collaboration with current BAME students will also be beneficial. This section suggests three major means through which this can be achieved, supplemented by smaller changes and improvements to existing efforts. These include:

  1. BAME Open Days
  2. Targeted Outreach
  3. BAME Student Led Outreach Programmes (e.g.) St Andrews BAME Access Conference

Some of the initiatives outlined in these above sections are underway, through the efforts of existing students, and in collaboration with the University. The University has been receptive to these proposals and concerns and offered feedback and support. The Report is also linked on the University Website with a summary response and a list of actions underway. While this is appreciated, to see efficient and timely action, a much larger amount of time, resources, funds, and urgency needs to be put into these action points.

This report is authored by: Yemi Akinyemi, Salma Ali, Ama Appiah, Charmaine Au-Yeung, Elroi Bernado, Teniola Dowie, Kira Elliot, Ananya Jain, Aïda-Léna Ndiaye, Zainab Magzoub, Philip Modu, Manhattan Murphy-Brown, Sean Nwachukwu, Papa Obeng, Alice Olomola, Samuel T. Oyewusi, Zoé Ruki, Luke Simboli, William Zhang.

Head over to the BAME Students'Network Subcommittee Social Media for more