Below is an article by UCU Member Amindya Raycha taken from the recent screening and roundtable discussion on “Race and Racism in Higher Education” held at St Andrews Students’ Association.
On 2 March, the UCU branch at St Andrews University and St Andrews Students’ Association jointly organised a film screening and roundtable discussion on “Race and Racism in Higher Education”. Speaking at the event were Jackie Ashkin (the Students’ Representative Council member for racial equality), Dr Lenore Bell (School of English), Dr Akira O’Connor (School of Psychology and Neurosciences) and Dr Gurchathen Sanghera (School of International Relations). We screened “Witness”, the UCU film which chronicles the lived experiences of UCU black members in post-16 education, and then the speakers spoke about the role played by their experiences in Higher Education. There were about 30 people in the audience representing staff of all levels as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students, and there was a very serious and thought-provoking discussion session. Topics covered included the experience of racism through multiple acts of micro-aggression, both within and outside the class room, the difficulties of collecting statistics when so many people understandably feel hesitant to report instances of racism, and the problem of covert racism which cannot be used to constitute evidence of racism in the first place. We spoke about the lack of diversity in our institution, and in British Higher Education more generally, and the effect that lack of representation has on Black and Minority Ethnic staff and students. We discussed issues of race and its effect on student admission, staff recruitment, staff promotion, as well as student and staff welfare. The discussion was, at times, understandably emotional as people talked about the disappointment, pain, and anger at instances of both overt and covert racism in the workplace. Audience feedback suggests that people found the film and discussion to be helpful, and we are currently planning future events to build on this very good start.