Image credit: Oxford University/Nasir Hamid
In light of the traumatic effect of the killing of George Floyd, and the global focus it has brought to communities and organisations to take further action on racism, the University is reaffirming its unequivocal abhorrence of and opposition to racism against Black and Minority Ethnic people and discrimination in all its forms. We are committed to addressing systemic racism wherever it may be found, including within our own community.
The University has, as Britain does, a history that is marked by colonialism and imperialism. The recent protests have also brought a renewed focus on this era of Oxford’s history. Groups such as the staff and student Oxford and Colonialism Working Group, established in 2016, demonstrate how we can and must continue to engage the University’s historical links with imperialism.
The University relies on bringing the very best minds from across the world together, whatever their race, gender, religion or background to create new ideas, insights and innovations to change the world for the better. The most effective way we can help address racism and inequality in societies is through our academic research and teaching, including modernising our curriculums, diversifying our academic scholars through the TORCH Global South Visiting Professorships and Fellowships and the Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx) Visiting Fellows Programme, and investigating crucial areas like why COVID-19 appears to have impacted Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities more than others.
However, Oxford does bear the hallmarks of the collective failures to address attitudes and behaviours which amount to discrimination. Although we cannot change this fact, we must continue to create a genuinely diverse and inclusive academic community in which students and staff feel respected and secure.
While reaffirming our commitment to addressing race equality, racism and welfare through four action areas – improving access to Oxford to prospective students from BME backgrounds, supporting BME students whilst they are at Oxford, assessing what we teach, and how we recruit and support our BME staff – we also recognise that we must do more in each of these areas. This will be achieved by listening to and involving our students and staff.
Galvanised by recent events and the groundswell of opinion in our community for accelerated change, in addition to staff communications highlighting support and resources, the University has written to the student community in three ways:
- Open letter to Oxford students from the Vice-Chancellor and Heads of House
- Oxford University Student Union letter
- African Caribbean Society letter
Within these letters the University has outlined a series of specific commitments and initiatives across our work on race equality, anti-racism and welfare. In the immediate term these include mitigating circumstances provision for any student whose performance may have been recently affected, increasing the diversity of our counselling service so that students have access to more BME counsellors, and ensuring that colleagues are alert to BME students who may be under particular strain at this time.
More widely we have also committed to a range of other measures including securing more BME scholarships, reviewing our recruitment policies and Equality and Diversity training, work on diversifying our governance, and setting up an access track within UNIQ to meet the specific needs of BME students wishing to apply to Oxford.
Further, the University is embarking on an institution-wide consultation on revising and refreshing its Race Equality Charter action plan. A lot of work is already underway, but this will be a significant opportunity for the community to work together to comprehensively review our progress and targets to date, and implement specific and tangible measures where we are falling short and need improvement.
As a University, we are committed to doing the work to ensure we have an environment where there is zero tolerance for racist comments or behaviours by staff or students. Only when highly talented students and academics, from all races and backgrounds, have an equal chance to participate in our distinctive teaching and research environment will our work to improve the world be best realised.