Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

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Windrush Day – King’s Legal Clinic Q&A

To mark Windrush Day we met with Shaila Pal, Director of King’s Legal Clinic to find out more about their recent work to support members of the Windrush Generation. 

The King’s Legal Clinic aims to further the education of KCL law students and promote social justice. The Legal Clinic has allowed King’s students to help victims of the Windrush scandal in practical and proactive ways. You can find out more about the Windrush Justice Clinic’s award winning work in this article


 

Tell us about yourself and your role at King’s. How did you get involved with this work?

I am the Director,  Supervising Solicitor and Senior Lecturer  at King’s Legal Clinic (the Clinic) which is part of the Dickson Poon School of Law.  The  Clinic aims to promote social justice and educate our students by providing them with experiential learning opportunities.   Our students work on legal cases and research projects under the supervision of lawyers either as part of an assessed module or on an extracurricular basis.   I teach and supervise clinic students and oversee the running of the Clinic, this includes developing new partnerships and clinics.

When the opportunity arose to develop a Windrush Justice Clinic (WJC) for King’s it seemed a perfect opportunity as  it aligned with the Clinic’s aim to proactively engage students in equality and race issues through experiential learning. Following the brutal killing of George Floyd , as a Clinic we had begun to  reflect more deeply on what our social justice mission means. The Clinic has long recognised the link between the hostile immigration environment and racism and have developed a range of immigration advice services to counter this. We also have an active strategy to work with marginalised  communities both in the UK and internationally.

I led on developing the WJC at King’s with great support from the Law faculty, the Clinic team and more widely at King’s.   There have been challenges along the way, but it has been a positive experience and really brough home how much my own values align with King’s. In the first part of my career I worked as a legal aid solicitor specialising mainly in refugee and immigration law. I had always been committed to working with marginalised  communities and   enabling   access to justice, the transition  to teaching  and clinical legal education was quite a natural one.

 

When we talk about the ‘Windrush scandal’, what do we mean?

People arriving from the commonwealth from 1948-1971 are commonly referred to as the Windrush Generation.  ‘Windrush’ derives from the ship ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ which brought one of the first groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948.   Many of the Windrush Generation were invited  by the British  government to the UK to take up jobs, for e.g in the newly formed NHS,  where there were shortages in the aftermath of WW2.     The people of these colonies or dominions , as there were then then known,  were given a type of citizenship   and were British subjects.  This accorded them a right of free movement within the empire and an ability to transmit their status to their children.

The essence of the scandal is that the Windrush generation , and their children,  who arrived in the UK  were residing here lawfully, they were either British or had  settled status. However the Home Office issued no formal paperwork  in many instances, as there was no legal requirement to do so.

In 2010,  the Home Office destroyed landing cards and other records  belonging to Windrush migrants, making it is difficult for Windrush arrivals and their families to prove their legal status following  changes in the Immigration system and notably the Government’s  2012 hostile environment policy.  The hostile environment policy aimed to make the UK uninhabitable for undocumented migrants by  tasking landlords, employers, the NHS, banks and many others   with the function of enforcing immigration control.  This meant that many of the Windrush Generation were  unable to prove their lawful immigration status , some were  detained and deported, lost their right to work and rent, access to bank accounts, claim benefits and access to healthcare etc.

In 2018, the UK government finally accepted that it had wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights to the Windrush generation.  Following acknowledgement of the scandal,  to date more than 12,000 people have received documents from the Home Office confirming they are now legally living in the UK.   In April 2019, the government established The Windrush Compensation Scheme (‘WCS’) which aims to provide victims with recompense for their suffering.

The WCS scheme has been extensively criticised and whilst attempts have been  made to improve it,  many consider it not fit for purpose. In November 2021, the Home Affairs Committee on the  WCS  found: ‘Instead of providing a remedy, for many people the Windrush Compensation Scheme has actually compounded the injustices faced as a result of the Windrush Scandal’.  There are numerous issues with the schemes;

  • Low uptake, only 5.8% of the people who are believed to be eligible for compensation have received a payment.
  • Complex application process requiring detailed calculations, supporting evidence and information.
  • Hostile approach to assessment of evidence.
  • Inadequate legal advice provision. Legal aid is not available.
  • Delay in decision making, for e.g. 23 people have now died without receiving a decision.
  • Low amounts awarded.
  • Inadequate appeals system.

Initial estimates had suggested the scheme could be forced to pay out between £200 -500 million and that at least 15,000 applications would be submitted.  Thousands of people have been affected by this scandal, but many are reluctant and often frightened to ask for help.  The estimate of eligible claimants has been revised down by the Home Office and current stands at 4,000 to 6,000 claims.

 

What does the Windrush Justice Clinic aim to do?

The WJC is a collaborative partnership made up of community organisations, law centres and university legal advice clinics striving;  to help victims of the Windrush scandal receive the compensation they deserve;    research  the accessibility  and fairness of the compensations scheme; and share and  disseminate the WJC  clinical  legal education  model of  collaboration.

King’s joined the wider WJC collaborative partnership  in  October 2021.   King’s part-funds a solicitor at Southwark Law Centre and 20 King’s students have been involved in;  supporting community outreach sessions to raise awareness of the WCS and build trust in the elderly Windrush community in Southwark;  and provide casework support to the SLC solicitor in complex cases involving vulnerable clients.

The WJC has carried out  preliminary research, led by the University of Westminster,  into unmet need for legal advice for people making claims under the  WCS which  found the process was to complex for claimants to navigate, legal assistance was required, the current advice framework in inadequate and there is considerable unmet legal need.

 

Have any of the cases you’ve worked on surprised you?

I have been struck how the Windrush scandal has impacted a wide variety of people from all walks of life and ages. King’s  WJC is representing clients from a variety of countries in the Commonwealth, including those with  Jamaican, Dominican,  Indian, Nigerian and Canadian heritage.   We have younger client’s who are victims of domestic abuse,  experiencing  serious problems  in accessing housing support due to the inability to prove their lawful residence.  An older client who’s highly successful  career in creative industry  was  stalled for a number of years,  which  had a  devastating impact on his life including  health issues, financial issues and the  resultant breakdown of significant relationships.  A daughter who  experienced  significant delays returning to the UK to care for her elderly and unwell mother. Many people’s lives have been impacted and it is humbling to hear about their experiences.

 

What lessons do you hope we have learnt from the treatment of the Windrush generation?

There is much to reflect upon and learn, this is something we are planning an event around to take place in either September or October 2022, so watch this space!  For  me the following are critical as a starting point:

It is important  to assess the root cause of   any  problem and  we have to address   the historic and ongoing racism which permeates immigration legislation in the UK.   Whilst there  has been some acknowledgment ,  there does appear some resistance.    It was recently reported that   the Home Office is  suppressing the release of   a government commissioned report  which finds racist legislation led to the Windrush scandal.

Public sector equality duties must be carried out in a meaningfully and robust fashion.  In 2020 the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the Home Office has acted unlawfully by not properly considering how it’s hostile environment policies  affected black members of the Windrush generation.

A functioning and effective legal aid system is vital to protect people’s rights and keep a check on government.   When the hostile environment immigration policy was introduced, large parts of immigration advice was removed from the scope of legal aid,  therefore Windrush victims  were unable to access to   vital free legal advice.  Many Windrush victims  currently need legal  assistance with their  compensation claims in light of its complexity and the historical trauma suffered, legal aid is not available and this  is another reason for the low uptake in the compensation scheme.

A government compensation scheme should  be administered by an  appropriate  department  who is not viewed as the   perpetrator of the harm by the victims.  Distrust in the Home Office  has been cited as a reason for the low uptake in the scheme, the  rules of the scheme itself require a level of evidence which perpetuates the culture of hostile environment:

“From my experiences with the Windrush Compensation Scheme / Home Office, and their responses to my claim, it is almost like they are telling me the following: “We are really, really, sorry for punching you in the face, however, we are sure you’ve recovered now, it wasn’t that bad of a punch, so here is another punch in the face, but don’t worry about that one, because you’ve already recovered, please accept some tape and cotton wool to make a plaster out of.’” Windrush victim testimony provided to Home Affairs Committee

 

What is the future of the work of the WJC?

The WJC has been  great success so far ,   it won Best New Pro Bono Activity Award at the 2022 Law Works and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards.  Most importantly we  are supporting clients and providing our students with a valuable learning experience, where they can develop  an understanding of structural inequalities in society and work with clients from diverse backgrounds.

We want the WJC to help as many people as possible through casework  in partnership with Southwark Law Centre, build capacity in other Clinic’s and organisations across the UK,  and carry  out  further research on unmet legal need and systemic issues  with the compensation scheme.


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The Windrush Generation – Britain’s Builders

To mark Windrush Day, Hannah Gordon, a first-year English student at King`s College London, remembers the legacy of the Windrush generation and their contribution to Britain.


 

Picture of the ship Empire Windrush.

The ship Empire Windrush.

Waving hands and smiling faces spill out of the Empire Windrush as it approaches Tilbury Dock. A new generation of hopeful arrivals determined to make their mark in the ‘mother country’ and build a better life for them and their families back home. Unbeknownst to them, they would face racism, inequality and discrimination that would define British race relations for years to come.

The Windrush generation, as most are known, have become the face of the dynamic global hub, which is Britain. In 2018, the Windrush Scandal became headline news with numerous cases of wrongful detentions and deportations of these migratory pioneers, who were invited by the British government to live and work. This scandal prompted widespread condemnation but more importantly, a conscious drive to honour the contributions of the Windrush generation. Subsequently, every year on the 22nd of June we celebrate Windrush Day commemorating their indelible sacrifice to Britain.

Both my grandparents were part of the Windrush generation. My grandmother was a night shift nurse in the NHS for 40 years and lived in Ladbroke Grove during the Notting Hill riots. My grandfather was an auto- electrician and then a machine operator- spanning 30 years. So, as we approach Windrush Day, what better time to learn more about the effort, resilience and duty of this generation who helped mould Britain into the cultural powerhouse it is today?

Lord Kitchener (calypsonian)

Lord Kitchener (calypsonian).

Contributions to the Public Sector

Picture of two nurses from the Windrush generation.

Picture of two nurses from the Windrush generation.

The NHS is a cultural institution to Britain. It embodies ideas of equality and accessible rights to all – regardless of circumstance. No wonder it took a staring position at London`s 2012 opening ceremony- think Britain think NHS. Today, 20 % of the NHS’ workforce is from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds and it is the most diverse workforce in the whole of Europe. Caribbean nurses from the Windrush Generation played a massive part in building the NHS helping to fill the labour shortage. Despite experiencing racism and discrimination, they pursued in their roles demonstrating dedication to their job, family, and Britain.

Many of the Windrush generation also worked in Transport for London. Transport for London actively recruited in the Caribbean and by 1956 they had enrolled dozens of workers – both men and women. Around 20% of TFL workers are still from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds today. This transport network, iconic to London, still bears the Windrush imprint.

Contributions to Music
Large sound system.

Sound System.

Music has been long associated with the Windrush generation. From the sound systems, which became a vocal point for black youth seeking identity in hostile Britain, to genres like Reggae, Dub and Ska. Dub, which remixed records, became the premise for modern day genres like drum and bass as well as house music.

Contributions to Literature

As the conversation surrounding race in fields of education and literature becomes more prominent. Writers like Zadie Smith, Malorie Blackman, Sam Selvon and Benjamin Zephaniah are more widely recognised. Walk into waterstones and their books are in some of the most noticeable displays. The influx of diverse literature was a massive contribution of the Windrush generation. Writers like Sam Selvon helped popularise the creole voice in writing and his subversive style is often adopted by ‘contemporary figures like Zadie Smith’.  Other mobilising movements, like the Caribbean Arts Movement and the Caribbean Voices helped attract an audience to these new styles of writing.

Sam Selvon sat at a desk holding papers.

Sam Selvon

I have only scratched the surface of the Windrush Generation’s achievements. There are so many more exciting stories and experiences to share. We must continue to read, educate, and honour the debt they paid for this country as Britain`s builders.


References

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Pride Month Reflections: Proudly King’s

Paul Webb, Executive Chair of Proudly King’s offers his reflections on Pride month and looks at some of the work that has been happening at King’s College London


Proudly King's taking part in a pride parade with a decorated London bus.

Every Pride month, the problem of ‘Rainbow Washing’ rears its technicolour head. For those unfamiliar with the term, when companies appropriate the Pride flag during the month of June but do nothing of pragmatic value for their queer customers, that’s Rainbow Washing.

But it’s not just companies who offer nothing in return to the LGBTQ+ community who receive backlash. You might remember Marks and Spencer launching a Pride month sandwich in 2019 – the Lettuce, Guac, Bacon and Tomato. They declared the sandwich ‘packed with flavour’ and donated £10,000 to AKT (the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ homeless charity) but it still left a bad taste in people’s mouths.

So, what is it about Rainbow Washing that provokes angry community leaders and a month of social media outrage? Perhaps it’s about money. Yes, Marks and Spencer gave a healthy sum to AKT, but I’m sure they made a few quid for themselves by jazzing up a BLT and selling it for £4.45. But let’s be realistic. Companies are about profits, and the margins need to be worth it.

Maybe lack of creativity is to blame.

Since 2016, Skittles have ditched their signature rainbow colours for Pride Month, selling white sweets in white packaging because ‘only one rainbow matters [during] pride’.  Like M&S, they donate a portion of proceeds to deserving charities.

They might have made it impossible to find the purples and avoid the greens, but the public responded more favourably to a campaign promising to ‘give the rainbow’ rather than take it purely for commercial gain. Skittles went further than adding some arbitrary guacamole to a British lunchtime staple.

They build on their campaign year after year, and in 2021, they colourised black and white images of LGBTQ+ history for the first time, bringing attention to queer heroes without whom we wouldn’t be celebrating Pride in the first place. Surely that’s a worthy Pride campaign.

Then again, Mars Inc (owner of Skittles) must have profited, because the rainbow-less confection is back for the seventh year running, and it’s difficult to believe a multi-billion-pound company runs on altruism alone.

If I had to guess what makes a good Pride campaign, I’d say it’s about authenticity. I can’t define authenticity (which I appreciate isn’t very helpful) but I can tell you about some of the things Proudly King’s are doing to celebrate Pride Month 2022:

  • We’ve organised social and educational events. Both are important. We’re particularly excited about ‘Stories of Queer Poland’, a joint event with Warsaw University on Wednesday 22nd June at 5.30pm, online and in person.
  • We’re continuing our allyship campaign, encouraging colleagues to pledge to the LGBTQ+ community in order to receive a beautiful progress lanyard and wear with pride. So far, we have over 400 pledges. You’ll see some of them at the bottom of this blog.
  • We’re flying flags from Strand, Guy’s, Waterloo and Denmark Hill campuses. The buildings at Denmark Hill are illuminated with rainbow colours. There’s nothing wrong with visible celebration of Pride Month as long as that’s not the only thing you do.
  • Most importantly, we’re continuing our year-round work. We’re marching at London Trans+ Pride in July and attending UK Black Pride in August and Bi Pride in September. We’re continuously working with EDI and Senior Leaders to improve the LGBTQ+ experience at King’s. I’m sure you’re all aware (because we haven’t stopped banging on about it) that King’s was awarded a Stonewall Gold Award in February 2022 and Proudly King’s was a highly commended Staff Network. That’s a testament to our institution’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion.

There’s no rule book on ‘How To Do Pride Month’. To be honest, I’m not always sure what’s right and what’s wrong. But I do know that authenticity (however you define it) goes a long way.

This year, I emailed Estates and Facilities colleagues around King’s to ask about flying Pride flags. They responded almost immediately, with kindness and enthusiasm, to tell me they’d be up on the June 1st. They didn’t need reminding.

So yes, they’re just flags, but they symbolise King’s coming together to support and celebrate our LGBTQ+ colleagues.

That’s what Pride means to me.

Proudly King’s Allyship Campaign Pledges

Below are some pledges that members of the King’s community have shared with Proudly King’s as part of their allyship campaign.

As a white cis gay man, I’ve had a lot of things pretty easy, but even so I still think twice before holding my husband’s hand in public. I’m going to support + the LGBTQ community more visibly, promote equality and challenge prejudice in my work, volunteering and my personal life.
I will work towards incorporating more inclusive events and LGBTQ+ representation within the Refreshers and Welcome to King’s projects, expand our support and offer guidelines to services and faculty events.
I will engage in self-directed learning and active listening so that I can better understand the issues impacting the community.
I pledge to display the Proudly King’s banner as a symbol of my allyship for the LGBTQ+ community and to indicate my openness to having conversations with students and staff about issues they might find difficult to talk about. Being open about my allyship is an important step for me.
It starts at home. I champion this within my family hoping that changes in the way they speak and describe members of the LGBTQ+ community would lead to changes in interactions within their own social circles and so on.
I’m going to try and be more of a visible bi role model in my department and continue to support others in having challenging conversations. I also hope to introduce pronouns to more student activities for the projects I oversee.
I’m going to speak out against transphobic attitudes when raised by friends and family. I’m going to look at ways we can be more inclusive for young learners in our widening participation programmes.
I will stand up against negative, harmful and discriminatory comments and behaviour. I will continue to educate myself – and know this is my responsibility. I’ll model good behaviour but will own my mistakes and learn from them.
I will be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community by ensuring that all of our processes and policies within the Business School support equality, diversity and inclusion. I will try my best to encourage all of the diverse voices and views within the School to be heard, and to speak up when homophobic, transphobic or other intolerant views are expressed in my presence.
I pledge to proactively learn more about LGBTQ+, through books, films, tv shows, listening to podcasts, talking to those who identify as LGBTQ+ to better understand the existing barriers and challenges. I hope that this will not only allow me to be informed but will also enable me to learn how to become a better ally.

 

You can get involved by visiting the Proudly King’s website, and dont forget to follow them on Twitter & Instagram

 


Where you can seek support

For members of the King’s College London Community:

External support available to all: 

  • Galop is a charity that supports LGBTQ+ people who have experienced abuse.
  • Switchboard LGBT+ helpline offer free, confidential and impartial advice and support.
  • Stonewall are a leading LGBTQ+ charity.
  • Mermaids offer support to transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse young people and their families.

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International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia Reflections

In our latest Diversity Digest Blog, Jake Orros (he/him) an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Officer here at King’s College London reflects on IDAHOBIT DAY. That’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia which is marked across the world on the 17th May.  He explores why the day is needed in 2022 and signposts to how you can make a difference and also access support. 


Jake Orros standing on the 8th floor balcony of Bush House with Views of Westminster in the background as the sunsets.

Jake Orros, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Officer.

IDAHOBIT Day – that’s International day against homophobia, transphobia & biphobia is marked this week. Now observed annually across the globe on the 17th May since its inception in 2004. The 17th of May is significant because it was on this day in 1990 the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. This year’s theme is “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights”.

In 2022 some may ask ‘why IDAHOBIT is still needed?’  And the same question could be asked of pride events and other LGBTQ+ observances.

After all it has been 32 since years since the UN declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. And from a UK perspective; sexual activity between men was decriminalised in 1967. The ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces was first lifted in 2000 and remnants of legislation removed in 2016. In 2001 the age of consent was equalised. Section 28 was finally repealed in 2003. In England & Wales the first same-sex civil partnerships were entered into in December 2005 & marriage followed in March 2014, with Scotland & Northern Ireland following (although it took the latter until 2020 and with a nudge from central government in Westminster). Trans people have been able to change their gender since 2005. LGBT people can build their own families and adopt children. All these stops on the journey to finding true equality, belonging,  acceptance and inclusion should be celebrated, despite arriving with much delay at each of these!

In 2022 IDAHOBIT Day is still very much needed. Despite all the advances listed from a UK perspective – more needs to be done, both at home and abroad. The fight for true equality, acceptance and inclusion is still very much in progress, and now is not the time to ease off the accelerator in the battle against homophobia, transphobia & biphobia globally. Here are some examples:

From a UK perspective

Conversion Therapy – The Government has still not banned harmful conversion therapy, 4 years after promising to do so. There have been repeated delays and U-turns. In the recent Queen’s Speech the government proposed a bill to be passed this parliament to ban conversion therapy, however, the government has indicated this legislation will only protect LGB individuals and not members of the Trans community. This is deeply worrying, with many including the British Psychological Society expressing concern that not all members of the LGBT community will be protected by this new legislation. Any legal ban on conversion therapy must be inclusive of all forms of supposed ‘therapy’ and must be implemented without further delay.

Hate Crime – Instances of reports of hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community have been on the steady rise, more on this can be found in this article. Additionally, the figures collated by the charity Stonewall make for a sobering read on their LGBTQ+ facts and figures webpages. A combination of factors are likely to be behind the increased reporting of instances of hate crime against LGBTQ+ people. 1) A real terms increase in instances where LGBTQ+ people are target; 2) the true extent of the problem is being revealed as more feel able to share their lived experience. What is clear is that LGBTQ+ people in Britain are still targeted because of their sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.

Global perspective

Legislation – approximately 69 countries still have legislation on the books that criminalise LGBTQ+ people. Let that sink in. By simply living as their true authentic selves’, individuals risk prosecution or worse. According to the Human Dignity Trust 11 jurisdictions currently impose or have the sentencing option to impose the death penalty on those engaging in consensual sex between same-sex individuals in private. And 15 jurisdictions criminalise transgender peoples expression/gender identity. Some may say that prosecutions of LGBTQ+ individuals in many of these jurisdictions are low/non-existent. This argument misses the point. This legislation stigmatises being LGBTQ+; it creates a hostile environment that legitimises homo/bi/transphobia. The impact & burden on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ+ people should not be underestimated.

In the shadows of historic legislation – In countries where legislation no longer remains criminalising members of the LGBTQ+ community, the laws that once stood can cast long shadows over the community. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and fear may remain engrained in cultural norms and collective societal behaviours. It can take time for social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people to become the main narrative.

An example of this has recently come to light in the UK press in response to Her Majesty’s government’s proposal to send refugees landing on the UK’s shores to Rwanda. Many have questioned the Home Office’s proposals and the impact it would have on LGBTQ+ people. The Home Office acknowledges that there are indeed concerns. Stating in their own Equality impact assessment of the new partnership that ‘Homosexuality was de-criminalised [in Rwanda] in 2010. At this stage, investigations point to ill treatment being more than one off, but it does not appear to be systemic.’ Coupled with this the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website issues the following guidance to LGBTQ+ travellers to Rwanda – ‘Homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda but remains frowned on by many. LGBT individuals can experience discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities. There are no specific anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT individuals.’

What is clear in this instance is that it can be a mixed bag abroad. Lack of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation does not equal universal acceptance or safety. It should be noted that individual experience can differ for those living in a country and for those visiting temporarily for work or holidaying. There can also be regional variances and wider rural vs urban considerations to take into account. The takeaway here is that we can use IDAHO day to highlight both the archaic legislation that remains on the statute books across the globe; and the homo/bi/transphobic views held or perceived to be held by a significant minority that may persist long after decriminalisation.

Personal perspective

Homo/bi/transphobia does not always manifest itself in large overt attacks on an individual or community, often it is delivered via small actions that may be best described as microaggressions. These low intensity actions delivered over numerous occasions have an accumulative effect that can be equally hurtful, harmful, and damaging.

Earlier this year I visited a friend who lives outside of London. The weather had been beautiful, and we were heading out to grab some locally produced ice cream to wrap up what had been a brilliant day. At some point on our hunt for ice cream we started holding hands. Such an innocent act. In 2022 two men holding hands in public should not be revolutionary or an act of defiance. Everyone should be able to hold hands with the person of their choice and feel safe, feel confident and feel free.

As we approached a pub, an individual sitting outside made eye contact with myself and my friend, they turned to the person they were sat with and brought their attention to us. Both locked eyes on us and our connected hands as we approached. We continued walking. Then came an inaudible comment from the individuals sat down, clearly about us, about our connect hand, delivered in a tone that was certainly not welcoming. We did not let go but tightened our grip as we glanced at one another, decided to avoid confrontation, and walked on towards ice cream. I was stunned and angered by their small but overt act. Their microaggression.

Do people make comments about mixed-sex hand holding? Imagine holding hands with someone of the same sex and walking down the street and being met with multiple mini incidents like the one I recently experienced. Sure, you can shrug it of once, twice, three times – these microaggressions accumulate. It can be exhausting. It can be isolating. This is why we need to tackle all incidents of homo/bi/transphobia no matter how big or small. Regardless of size it is not acceptable.Power of Love IDAHOBIT Day Poster.

IDAHOBIT day acts as a rallying point to call for an end to abuse, stigma, and discrimination. The day also acts as an important opportunity to recognise and celebrate LGBTQ+ identities, individuals, and the wider community. Celebrating who we are is important; it grounds us, gives us renewed purpose & determination and reminds us why it is so important to continue to push for a world free of injustice, intolerance, and hate.

In the past month there have been several stories that should be amplified and celebrated;

  • Firstly, this week Jake Daniels has become the UK’s first openly gay male professional footballer to come out in 30 years whilst still playing. He follows hot on the heals of Australian player Josh Cavallo who publicly came out last October. Jake’s public action at the start of his career is courageous. There are already many out players in women’s football and there are countless other LGBTQ+ players who are not out publicly. I personally hope that we will reach a point where the idea of ‘coming out’ is not a news story and that people are simply accepted for being themselves. This said the fact that Jake feels confident and able to share his story and use his influence to enact positive change should be applauded. Now let’s focus on his sporting prowess and not his sexuality alone.

 

  • Secondly, the Netflix book adaptation of Alice Oseman’s ‘Heartstopper’ has recently hit the screens. The show has received phenomenal reviews for its wholesome portrayal of teens falling for each other. The show is hugely relatable. The show and comics were written about teenagers with teenagers in mind as the primary audience; the show has gone on to attract a much larger audience. Twitter has been full of LGBTQ+ people commenting that they wished they had a show like this, characters like this and a plot like this when they were younger. It is brilliant to see authentic & relatable LGBTQ+ stories for all audiences entering the mainstream.

 

  • Thirdly, the UK now has a dedicated LGBTQ+ museum called ‘Queer Britain’; it has just opened its doors to the public in its first physical home 4 years after the museum was founded, it is situated near King’s Cross. The museum sets out to document and celebrate LGBTQ+ histories & identities that have often been forgotten or not given the attention they deserve in the mainstream. The museum will act as a rallying point and showcase the diverse stories of the community.

What you can do to help

We all have a duty to stand up to hate. We all have a responsibility to counter homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. We can each take steps big and small to tackle hate & injustice and celebrate amazing LGBTQ+ individuals.

Here are some things you can do to make a difference:

  • Visit the IDAHOBIT Day website.
  • Donate to an LGBTQ+ charity tackling hate – we have listed some in the section below.
  • Write to your MP to support a trans inclusive ban on conversion therapy. You can do this really easily via a charity like Mermaids.
  • Volunteer with an LGBTQ+ charity or event or help fundraise for them.
  • Report hate crime via the independent charity Crimestoppers.

For members of the King’s College London community you can:

  • Visit our LGBTQ+ allyship toolkit.
  • Get involved with our LGBTQ+ staff network Proudly King’s.
  • Attend one of our upcoming training courses:
    • Request Trans Matters Training for your team.
    • Attend Microaggressions training.
    • Check out our Diversity Matters training, including the new e-course.

Where you can seek support

For members of the King’s College London Community:

External support available to all: 


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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

To mark the United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London shares how you can make a difference and tackle racial discrimination. 


The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed worldwide on March 21 each year. The day aims to remind people of the harm caused by racial discrimination. It also encourages people to remember their obligation and determination to combat racial discrimination.

I only just this year learnt that the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established six years after an event, known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre, which captured worldwide attention. This event involved police opening fire and killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960.

The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed the day as a UN Day of observance in 1966. It also called on all world states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination in 1983. It held the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001.

“Youth standing up against racism” is the theme of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2022. A theme that should be close to all university’s hearts especially those like us that have declared themselves determined to be anti-racist.

Young people have the option of posting their opinions regarding discussions on human rights and racial discrimination at Voices of Youth, which is UNICEF’s online bulletin board for young people.

As part of the King’s community, there’s various ways for you to play your part in standing up against racism. EDI will be hosting active bystander training for students on 28th & 30th March and 1st April which you can sign up to here.  We are also delivering microaggression training to staff & students, which will teach you to identify, call out and respond to racial microaggressions. If you have witnessed racial discrimination and wish to report it, you can find out how on our Dignity at King’s webpages.  This also includes the option of reporting anonymously, which helps us monitor patterns to inform our proactive work.

Our Race Equity Inclusive Education Fund (REIEF) has provided over £99,000 across 13 projects, two of which are particularly relevant to today (Gargie Ahmad is bringing anti-racism into education and training for mental health research and practice, and Sapphire Williams is exploring anti-racism globally). Gargie will be telling us more about their research in an upcoming blog.

Embedding wellbeing in uncertain times

Joy Whyte is Strategic Director, Education & Students, and the professional services lead for student mental health and wellbeing. To coincide with University Mental Health Day (3rd March 2022) Joy explores how we can embed wellbeing in uncertain times.


At the start of this academic year, the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group met in its newly configured form for the first time. I co-chair this group with Professor Juliet Foster, the academic lead for student mental health and wellbeing, with Wilna Gracias as the remarkably dynamic and knowledgeable Head of Student Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy.  

Joy Whyte leans against a stone rail, set alongside the exterior of a stone building. She is a white woman with auburn hair tied in a low plait and wears a teal top and jacket.

Joy Whyte, Strategic Director, Education & Students.

We started the meeting of the newly constituted group with a round of introductions, asking participants to share a time they were well supported and to describe the impact of that support. Rounds such as this – common in community organising practice, as a means of connecting group members – normally take 10 minutes at most. Ours took 50 minutes. In at an atmosphere of trust and confidence in one another, and a willingness to be collectively and individually vulnerable, we all shared stories of times when we had been challenged, and described the ways in which we had each been supported.  

Except for my own, those experiences are not mine to share, but anyone who has lived through two years of a global pandemic will have plenty of stories of their own: of isolation, of bereavement, of the difficulty of balancing work and family life (writ large as schools closed across the country), of caring responsibilities – both immediately and distantly, of health concerns and illness, of financial worries, instability around housing, difficulty in getting out to buy essentials, to name but a few. And sometimes a great many of these factors, in combination, exhaustingly set within a context of the intense ambient anxiety caused by a global health crisis.  

We also know that these factors have been felt differently – that black people and people of the global majority have been at greater risk from Covid, that women have carried a disproportionate childcare burden (affecting time for research, work, and rest), and that living arrangements have impacted in varyingly problematic ways for those who live alone, in shared accommodation, with a violent partner, or as a single parent.  

“More people have experienced a mental health crisis during the coronavirus pandemic than ever previously recorded”. – Mind, 2020.

The Prime Minister may think that we’re in post-pandemic times. But, even if you think the global health risk has subsided (and I believe only vaccine equity will assure that), the reverberations of living through such destabilising and precarious times seems set to be with us for some time. In November 2020, Mind revealed that “more people have experienced a mental health crisis during the coronavirus pandemic than ever previously recorded”. Mind warned of the risk of a second, mental health pandemic, and called for urgent action to mitigate the impacts of this, including investing in mental health services in the community. 

In February, the Office for National Statistics reported that 16-29 year olds feel significantly more anxious than the general population. 42% reported high levels of anxiety in the first half of February compared with 34% on average. Many King’s staff will be in this age group, and many more are directly supporting students who are experiencing these feelings of anxiety. The Student Minds Planning for a Sustainable Future report observed that “the human relationship between staff and students is still the key factor in the student experience and in supporting student mental health and wellbeing. How staff are supported becomes an important consideration.” 

In the 2018-2020 Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Report and Strategic Plan, we set out a pyramid support model. There are undoubtedly students – and staff – who need support at the uppermost levels (university specialist support services, and external specialist support services). Indeed, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor UWE and President of Universities UK (UUK) noted in a One King’s leadership session on 24 February that “the increasing demands being made on Mental Health and Wellbeing both within university, NHS and 3rd sector agencies is significant. Universities are being expected to support high risk mental illness as the pressures on the NHS increase. This is being worked on by UUK working across Government Departments to encourage a joined-up solution”.  

Yet the base levels of the pyramid are equally important, and as King’s moves into the next phase of our strategic plan, the steering group’s focus is on illuminating further the Education Strategy’s ambition to “support positive wellbeing as a fundamental ethos of the university” and to “support and enhance the mental and physical wellbeing of students and staff through all aspects of the university experience”.  

Going back to our October meeting, individual stories about challenges sat within the context of the support we had each received – a meeting with a colleague or line manager in which we felt heard; a note left on a desk or in a locker by a co-worker; someone asking ‘how are you?’ months after a difficult event, and meaning it; cups of tea made; diaries cleared for a conversation; understanding and compassion. These were often seemingly small actions – of kindness, concern, and support – and they were profoundly meaningful.  

“Local factors play a significant role in staff wellbeing. Having a supportive team and a good direct line manager has been shown to be important for good wellbeing…” – University Mental Health Charter.

These experiences reflect the findings of Student Minds, whose University Mental Health Charter (which King’s is  working towards) states “Local factors play a significant role in staff wellbeing. Having a supportive team and a good direct line manager has been shown to be important for good wellbeing, in both the literature and feedback from staff participants in the Charter consultation.”  

Importantly, though, Students Minds note: “However, this can be precarious if not supported by the general culture of the university. This suggests a need for a combination of a general healthy culture and specific structures and practice, which ensure managers can and do support good wellbeing within their teams and respond appropriately to staff experiencing poor mental health.” 

For my own part, I think that whilst our individual experiences can catalyse change, by illustrating what support can work well (and conversely where an absence of support has heightened difficulties), the Education Strategy’s ambitions can be genuinely transformative. In the words of the King’s Community Charter we partly demonstrate our collective commitments to making the world a better place by “creating a culture that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing, and supports a proactive and holistic approach, whilst recognising the needs of the individual”. As a steering group, we look forward to sharing with you more details of what this means in practice, as we prepare the King’s application to the University Mental Health Charter.  


For guidance on mental wellbeing, and details of a range of sources of support, including Togetherall, see staff mental wellbeing 

Organisational Development are currently conducting a review of the support available to staff, with the outcome of the review to be shared in early May. If you’d like to share your views on King’s support for staff wellbeing, Organisational Development invite you to send your thoughts to OD@kcl.ac.ukusing the subject line ‘Wellbeing Review’. 

LGBT History Month Reflections from Professor Bronwyn Parry

Introducing Professor Bronwyn Parry, Vice President and Vice Principal (Service), King’s College London’s new Senior Sponsor for all things LGBTQI+.


Having been at Kings ten years this year (where did the time go!) I am delighted to say that this anniversary will also coincide with my elevation as KCL’s Senior Sponsor for all things LGBTQi+. The past decade has seen some very significant advances in thinking about such matters and there is much to celebrate in this year’s LGBTQi History Month.

Professor Bronwyn Parry

Professor Bronwyn Parry.

One of the most significant of these has been the inclusive ways in which we have worked to support members of the wider King’s community who are trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming. I remember very well how difficult it felt, in years gone by, to secure acceptance from colleagues and the wider community for anything that deviated, even marginally, from what was at the time, a seemingly all consuming hetero-normativity. And yet, here we are, not so many years hence, when I find that I can say that wonderful phrase ‘my wife’ without producing even a marginally raised eyebrow.

All of human life and behaviour undergoes continuous change and evolution. Ideas that some thought were completely unacceptable in the past (opening universities to people who came from working class backgrounds, for example) have now, thankfully, been fully revisited and our conceptions of what is fixed and fluid productively re-worked, as a consequence. By extending allyship to those in the trans community we create a safe space in which we can all reflect on the fluidity of what for many have been seemingly fixed categories. Transitions of all kinds, whether in gender or thought can be personally challenging, but also, consequently, highly generative of new understandings and approaches to matters that we thought, perhaps, long settled.

To help us with these ruminations, Proudly King’s has created a wonderful set of interactive events that that will open many new perspectives for all of us. I hope that everyone will take up opportunities that these afford to create fresh conversations and partnerships across and between our varied, staff, student and professional services communities in ways that help us improve understanding and knowledge of the experiences of all those whose lives do not directly mirror our own. This is, in essence, the promise of inclusivity that lies at the heart of all our EDI ambitions, one that I have, and will, work to deliver in my new role.

I wish everyone a very happy and productive LGBTQI History Month, one in which we come together to celebrate the strengths that diversity, in all its colours, can bring to the enhancement of life!


LGBTQ+ History Month Reflections from Professor Evelyn Welch

In celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, Professor Evelyn Welch, Senior Vice President (Service, People & Planning) reflects on King’s College London’s commitments to our staff & students.



At King’s College London, we are committed to ensure that all members who identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella feel safe and welcome. We promote respecting equality, diversity and inclusion within and beyond our community.

Proudly King’s is our network for LGBTQ+ staff members and allies and has worked hard over the past 18 months to amplify the voices of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people and campaign for their rights.

Last year, Proudly King’s created and distributed new progress flag lanyards for staff and students which include the colours of the trans flag, as well as black and brown.

In June 2021, Proudly King’s launched their Allyship Campaign, encouraging colleagues to make a pledge to the LGBTQ+ community. 333 people have pledged so far, and over half of you specifically mention support for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people working and studying in our community.

Proudly King’s has organised an LGBTQ+ History Month which focuses on trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming experiences. On Twitter, they will celebrate a trans trailblazer every day in February. Please sign up to their exciting events.

Both the Equality Act 2010 and our internal Dignity at King’s – Bullying and Harassment Policy protect individuals from being harassed or victimised because of sex, gender reassignment (without need for medical intervention) and sexual orientation.

At King’s, we are proud of our commitments to LGBTQ+ staff and students. We promise to empower:

  • all colleagues who identify as trans, non-binary, gender fluid and intersex
  • all students who identify as trans, non-binary, gender fluid and intersex
  • those who promote and protect trans, non-binary, gender fluid and intersex rights

We will support anyone who experiences discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation because of their trans, non-binary, gender fluid and/or intersex identity. We will address issues promptly and treat everyone with dignity and respect.

I invite colleagues and students to promote this ethos within our community and beyond.

Finally, our central Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team has created an LGBTQ+ Allyship toolkit on SharePoint which includes resources and advice on how to be a better ally to trans and non-binary people. Allyship is an active process and we must always strive to do more.

Professor Evelyn Welch

Senior Vice President (Service, People & Planning)


For more information you can visit our equality, diversity & inclusion webpages here.

Proud to Be Me

This blog is part of a series celebrating Black History Month 2021 and the theme ‘Proud To Be’.

Aysha Nasir Rao, a third year History Student and Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive of the KCLSU, reflects on this years Black History Month theme of ‘Proud To Be’ and her experience studying the module ‘Investigating the Colonial Past of King’s College London’.


I am proud to be a Muslim.

I am proud to be Pakistani.

I am proud to be a woman.

I am proud to be the child of immigrants.

When I think of what I’m proud to be, these are the first that come to mind. The list could go on and on, but I think the things about myself I carry the most pride in are the things I was taught to be ashamed of, my heritage and faith being two of them.

Being a 90s baby, my formative years took place in a post 9/11 world (I was 5 years old) in Canada where it was definitely not a good thing to be a proud Muslim or Pakistani. This was made abundantly clear to me and my family living in a very small suburban town in Ottawa, where my family’s faces were some of the only brown ones I saw.

Some of my earliest memories are of beautiful Canadian winters, playing in the snow during Christmas time, lights and snowmen lining the streets. But this handful of memories are some of the only happy ones I can recall. The moments that I remember surprisingly clearly over twenty years later are of me in class being taunted by other students, of my teachers not stepping in when this happened, and of this tangible feeling that almost overnight people in my everyday life no longer liked or trusted me or my family. Even as a child I noticed how differently strangers would treat us, and worse how those in our own lives did.

It’s funny the things that leave such a lasting mark on us and affect us years on. That moment for me took place outside my family home. My neighbour was also my closest friend at school and who I sat next to everyday. It used to be a routine for me on the weekends to take my toys to her house and sit and have lunch with her family. This one particular weekend, around a month or so after the attacks, we were talking about her birthday party. She said to me, in the nicest way I think she thought she could, that her parents no longer felt I should be coming over to their house or playing with their daughter anymore. I remember not understanding why, I mean her family knew me so well and had only ever been nice to me, I spent more time at their house than I did at my own most weekends. She mumbled something or the other about what her parents thought of my family, which I assume was shared by the other parents at school because the same thing happened every time a birthday came around in class. Eventually I stopped taking the bus to school, I’d walk to my seat and spend the day not talking or being talked to. I started to learn to be quiet and slowly a sense of shame grew in me.

I think if my parents hadn’t made the decision to leave, I wouldn’t be writing about my pride right now. I credit a lot of this change to the community we made in Manchester. Though I was surrounded by so many different cultures, faiths and faces it was the first time I felt embraced and comfortable with people outside of my family (at the age of 7). I eventually got back in touch with my faith and my culture. I tried to re-learn Urdu, I started praying and proudly wearing my cultural dress, and it felt as though I unlocked another part of me. Like I wasn’t fully me because I wasn’t accepting all of me. And now that I’m in touch with my roots, I’m knowledgeable of my heritage and the incredible shoulders I stand on, I am so proud of who I am and what I represent. A brown Muslim woman.

Now as an adult I’ve reflected on how these events shaped me. Though it’s given me a great deal of resilience, once I got to KCL I noticed how much it was still affecting me in a negative way. King’s was certainly a culture shock. Though at the heart of the most diverse city in the world, Strand and more specifically for me the history department, was far from it and I found myself feeling alone and out of place again, a feeling I hadn’t felt at this level since I was a child. It’s not like those in my classes weren’t welcoming or kind, but looking back the last time I felt this out of place and was in a majority white space, I was five years old living in Canada.

I really found it difficult to feel the sense of community others felt and began to look for this at other universities where I felt more comfortable to express myself and where I was surrounded by more black and brown faces. This lack of comfortability was cemented in my first semester for my ‘Worlds of the British Empire’ module. When discussing the significance of Robert Clive’s statue, otherwise known as Clive of India, I shared what I felt his memorialisation represents especially when someone from my background is to walk by and see it. This was met with barely an acknowledgement, a sigh or two and was ultimately brushed off easily by the other students and not touched on again. By the time I was in second year, 2020 finally brought some much needed attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. Though this was brought about by instances of horrific police brutality with the death of George Floyd, and dozens of other black men and women during the summer alone, the world was forced to stop and listen to the conversations that have always been had within family homes and black and brown communities the world over.

Here in the U.K, people were also forced to confront the histories of some of their most celebrated figures, Nelson and Churchill for example, who have deep ties with the slave trade and colonial legacies. I saw some changes being made past appearances at King’s, the creation of the ‘Investigating the Colonial Past of King’s College London’ led by Dr Liam Liburd being one. I again debated the presence of another statue, but luckily to a much more empathetic class.

Part of the assessment for this module was to create a poster based on our own research into King’s colonial past through King’s extensive archive (though we were limited due to COVID). Mine, which is attached below, went with a Star Wars theme and likened the British Empire to that of the Emperor Palpatine’s Imperial Army. It serves as a summary of some of my key learnings from the module.

King’s: An imperial story poster

Though it’s only scratching the surface, I wanted to highlight what King’s stood for at its inception but to end on what King’s legacy and what it aims to be now, especially since I am now a tiny part of that legacy. With an institution as old as King’s, Oxford and Cambridge being the only two older English institutions, there wasn’t much doubt that the university I now pay a large sum of money to had a hand in subjugating my ancestors through empire and has its own links to the Atlantic slave trade. Looking at the poster again, it raises the question for me of if we can ever achieve a fully decolonised curriculum at King’s or if those two things are in conflict with one another. It’s an interesting question for all of us to think about.

Being a history module, the class was not the most diverse (to be expected), but Dr Liburd and the other students created an encouraging space for us all to share our thoughts which were respected and not belittled and where empathy was always present. Though Dr Liburd this year has gone on to a great position at Durham University, the module is continuing with Dr Jean Smith. Speaking with Dr Smith earlier this month, it was lovely to hear how committed and determined she was to making this classroom space just as safe and comfortable for students.

For any single or joint honours history students on the fence on selecting this module, I can definitely say you won’t regret it, even if colonial history isn’t your main area of focus. The debates we had in class opened my mind to new ideas, I learnt the histories of abolitionists that were never taught to me in school, I learnt how to conduct research on my own which we don’t get a chance to do until third year, and most importantly, my beliefs were challenged regularly in a way they haven’t been in other classes. And as a bonus, it’s also a welcome break from writing the longform essays we’re unfortunately too used to.

Change always happens slower than we would like, but on the brighter side the History department is in the process of redesigning the first-year curriculum and have just met this week to discuss the second-year curriculum, both with decolonising themes being at the centre of these talks. For me this means in a few years, the history degree will be more attractive to those from minority backgrounds, and they will have a chance at studying a more honest view of world history. On this subject, I was able to have an open conversation with Professor David Brydan about decolonising the History curriculum, what challenges there are and what he sees happening moving forward.

 

Aysha Nasir Rao in conversation with Professor David Brydan

How do you define decolonisation it in relation to the curriculum?

It means different things to different people. The simplest strand is a deep diversification, that there is a diversity of voices in our primary sources, secondary reading and the geographical scope of the topics we cover. Then, on a level up, it is about challenging ourselves on what we teach and the perspectives we teach from. For example, I teach the global Cold War. One of the easiest things to do is to have load of primary sources from all over the world, but the more difficult thing to do is saying that the Cold War is a Western construct and thinking about the second half of the twentieth century as “The Cold War” is a very narrow, western-centric view of that period of history in which the Cold War was one of lots of different strands of things going on, of which decolonisation was one. Thinking about how and to what extent, even if at all, we can think about the Cold War beyond the western lens is not something easily done but is something you must embed into all of the conversations we have in our teaching. And finally, I think with conversations surround decolonisation you have to think of anti-colonialism as well and people who fought against it. Sometimes I worry that the language is a bit too neutral in a way and instead what we should be talking about is anti-colonialism in the same way we talk about anti-racism and an ant-racist curriculum, rather than a de-racist curriculum. And bringing it back to the Cold War, you can easily include a lot on the fight against colonialism in all of its forms and anti-colonialists in the source material.

Do you see or feel that there any roadblocks to having that open safe space within a classroom to discuss conversations such as this?

I don’t think it’s necessarily about specific roadblocks and I haven’t found situations where there are individuals who are hostile to having these conversations. There are a lot of people who don’t care that much and there are people who see these conversations through a hostile lens, but I’ve never experienced that in my classrooms.

I think it’s more about what we have been discussing before where it’s the wider political environment makes people reluctant to engage in the conversation because they fear that they will be misinterpreted or create difficult situations in even raising these topics. It’s such a difficult thing to target because it often comes down to the dynamics of the group and the institutional dynamics and you can’t just pretend it’s like having an open conversation amongst friends where you won’t necessarily be judged. I think working out how we create these kinds of environments is really hard but one if the things I was struck by the other day was the importance of dialogue, not just amongst students, but staff-student dialogue and I was interested by what you said about having these conversations with staff members made you feel more comfortable and changed your perspective as well. I think if everyone was able to have those detailed conversations with us and vice versa, then we would be able to create those environments where people are more comfortable. We’re limited with the time we have with students in a group setting so what we need to do is find a way to almost shortcut that process, for lack of a better word. So dialogue is what I would put the most emphasis on, but I’m not entirely sure how we would create those environments for all students in the little time we have with them in each class.

How would you tackle apathy to these issues within the King’s community?

Again, I would emphasise the process of dialogue. I think if you were to throw the question of decolonisation in with no preparation, then those who are inherently interested in it will already have ideas and those who haven’t thought about it before won’t have a clue what you’re talking about. And so, for the people haven’t been exposed to these ideas before, I think we really need to embed it in the formal conversations we have throughout the year so that people in lots of different classes covering a variety of periods and topics have had these important conversations about what a decolonised curriculum means and what a decolonised approach to their topics means. And through that people will develop. People will not be apathetic because they will gain a greater understanding if its importance, especially in a historical context. And this needs to be a long-term pedagogical process, not something that is just thrown in every now and again in isolation but discussed throughout the modules and built into the curriculum

And I would say, the only times I’ve had unsatisfactory conversations about it has been when I have just thrown it in there without giving students that preparation, and where it has worked well is where there has been an ongoing dialogue.

Are there plans for introducing decolonisation topics for specific modules that are compulsory for history students throughout the course for example, HSSA or History and Memory?

I think faculty members are doing that anyways because of conversations being had by a lot of people, especially more recently. There is currently a curriculum reform process going on in which these conversations re being had in the background, but I wouldn’t say there’s a set strategy where every module will have it set out this way. But I think one of the things we should do is talk to students about that, which is what we’re doing with the redesign of our first-year curriculum, and say ‘this is what we’re doing, what do you think about it, what reading would you like to see, are there any topics you feel we missed etc..’, and then thin king about decolonising the curriculum as part of those conversations would be really useful thing to do.

Do you know if there are any plans to include modules which directly deal with this subject matter, such as Black in the Union Jack or King’s Colonial Past?

We are reforming the curriculum year by year and we are in the process of reforming year 1 right now. We actually have our first meeting about year two this week and this is where students can be more selective in their modules choices and focus on their interests. I don’t have specifics about this, but this is why dialogue like this is so useful, so when it comes time for departmental meetings about reforms to be made all of these conversations can feed into those discussions.

In your time at the department (3 years) have you noticed any change with regards to embracing decolonising movements?

I can see that a lot has changed since the three years that I arrived at least in terms of the modules that I’m aware of being taught, but I also don’t think there’s been a grand transformation either. I think the process was already happening beforehand and it’s definitly an ongoing but slow moving. And so yes is my answer, but I don’t think by any means the problem has been solved. Going back to your first question, this is very much a process and it’s not something where we can do ten things and it’s not an issue anymore. Inherently this is something that must be embedded in our thinking going forward and we will naturally find new and different ways to decolonise the curriculum because the problems won’t always be the same. And we need to constantly be including students because it is a process of dialogue and people’s ideas around this and how to best tackle these issues will change over time, and I think partly changes in the department will come from constantly pressure and dialogue with students.

With regards to having a more representative student body, how do you think we should engage students from underrepresented backgrounds to be interested in history in HE, especially as there is this disparity compared to other faculties?

This is definitely a humanities problem, I think. Generally, History attracts people from higher socio-economic backgrounds whose university choices aren’t necessarily dependent on job prospects straight after graduation, as well as the perception that humanities won’t lead to as well-paid jobs which then feeds into the backgrounds of the students on our courses. But it also has to do with History and the way it is taught in schools and what is taught in schools.

So, with regards to what we can control I think working with schools is really important. I and other members of the department have done a lot of work like this and have these conversations that we’re having but within the school context as well, which is difficult because they’re more constrained by a national curriculum. For example, Toby Greene in the department designed an A-level module on pre-colonial West African history and put together resources for teachers to use with the intention that this is something that schools should be teaching and incorporating, especially since topics like this aren’t available for A-level students to do. So yes, if we can help to decolonise schools in regard to what they’re teaching then that will hopefully feed through to the backgrounds of the students who then come to study history at university. And if your experience of history is studying the Tudors over and over again in school, why would you feel like a history degree is relevant for you.

School teachers have more constraints that at university because they need to get their students to get good grades and they have a curriculum they have to follow and exam boards and so the desire to do this kind of work may be there, but they don’ have the time or resources to do so. I think in university we face fewer constraints and have more intellectual freedom so in that sense it’s easier for us. However, we do have institutional constraints. For example King’s at the moment thinks that we should have fewer modules and all modules should be run by multiple members of staff, so that for example constrains to some extent what we can do, but we still ultimately have the freedom to teach what we want. But also, for us I think the constraint is also a time constraint because it can take quote a long time for change to happen especially since it’s all very collegiate and there are processes to follow which ultimately delays things. Partly, there’s also a degree of institutional inertia in that it’s easier to teach things you’ve already had to teach and kept the same than it is to prepare new courses every year which teachers don’t always have the time to do that especially when a lot of staff are early in their career and people are on fixed-term contracts, they are normally coming in a picking up pre-existing courses rather than having the time to design their own.

The publication you were a part of in 2019 raised the problem of syllabi struggling to keep track of re-interpretations of history and thus teachers resorting to teaching the history they were taught at school. How do you think can we integrate new ideas and topics into these very familiar narratives?

The teaching and learning document we did was a collaboration between historians and schoolteachers, and it was written for the Historical Association for schools. It was published three years ago but the initial thoughts to do it started about five years ago.

I don’t think we talked a lot of decolonisation in this, but we certainly had thought about it. I had written about the Cold War, and I tried to write about the Global Cold War and introducing decolonisation topics into that.  But the interesting thing about this is that I think if we wrote it now, we would do it differently and I think both the academic historians and the teachers who contributed to it would have possibly put more emphasis on Black history, history of migration and on decolonising the curriculum generally because these conversations have been more prominent in the last five years.

I think reading it, it was quite ahead of its time but also so much more has changed especially with what has been brought up in the world with the BLM movement and so on. It suggests how fast things can change and how slow some of these processes are because when this was published it was thought to be cutting-edge research to give to schoolteachers but now the world has changed so much and suddenly doesn’t seem so cutting-edge and needs to be re-evaluated.

And we don’t know what’s going to happen in the world in the next five years and the way we understand history is always shaped by what is going on around us and so this is very much going to be an ongoing process.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I think I would just emphasise the dialogue point. I think it’s easier to think that this is something for academics to do and that it has to be a top down process but if we’re talking about decolonising the curriculum as a shift in power dynamics that extends to the classroom as well, it has to be partly about democratising the curriculum to a certain extent and integrating the views and ideas of the students in dialogue with academics, a kind of partnership model of education and curriculum reform. This might sometimes be quite difficult to do practically but I think that dialogue and collaborative working is so important.

It Starts With You – Mutual Mentoring and Data

EDI Consultant and Mutual Mentoring lead, Nicole Robinson, explains the link between data and King’s Mentoring Schemes, and how a better understanding of our our university can benefit all staff. 


Have you ever wondered what King’s does with your personal data? 

It is common to see information about data protection and storage, but you may wonder why we need this information from you in the first place. You may be reluctant to provide this information to your organisation. This may be especially true when we are asking you to provide personal details, such as your sexual orientation or trans history.  

One of the positive outcomes of providing your data however, no matter who you are, is that it helps us to develop evidence-based, targeted equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) interventions including our Mutual Mentoring and More than Mentoring schemes.  

In December 2020 King’s launched the first pilot wave of our Mutual Mentoring scheme. Mutual Mentoring aims to increase confidence across King’s in championing all areas of EDI by matching a senior leader with a volunteer who has knowledge or experience of a prioritised area of EDI. The senior leader, in turn, can offer guidance on leadership, career progression and development. The scheme is currently in the pilot stage, and there are hopes to scale it up in future. 

In the first wave of the pilot, EDI Project Officer Lauren Blackwood was matched with VP Education, Professor Nicola Phillips for six months. In reflecting on the partnership, Lauren said; 

‘We both felt safe and comfortable to talk quite frankly. I was very surprised about how authentic I felt I could be on a frequent basis. It was great to be signposted to academic materials related to my interests, and to understand why specific approaches were taken and the constraints that exist at different levels. I feel proud of my growth over the last two years, and I have gained so much from both the Mutual and More than Mentoring schemes. 

The More than Mentoring scheme is separate from the Mutual Mentoring scheme. For the last four years, the scheme has matched mentors and mentees with shared lived experience to foster deeper understanding and connection between members of the King’s community. Staff who have participated in the scheme have reported feeling more connected and supported, and many staff return to participate year-on-year, often moving from mentee to mentor. The scheme has grown each year, partly because of testimonies and encouragement from other staff. Staff like Nirmal Sampathkumar, a Post-Doctoral Researcher from IoPPN, who took part in the scheme this year. Nirmal shared his experience working with Lucy to colleagues as part of a collaborative webinar, and encouraged others to join the scheme; 

https://web.microsoftstream.com/video/af2c40dc-7d0e-4460-96af-6c7beac80c15 

We’re looking forward to opening the scheme again in the new academic year.  

To be able to run positive action initiatives, King’s must be able to evidence why they are needed, which is why King’s needs to be informed about your personal data. King’s mentoring schemes are a direct result of staff updating and providing their equal opportunities and diversity monitoring data. When these interventions are recognised by external accreditations such as the Race and Gender Equality charter marks, they also improve our ability to access funding for even more initiatives: it flows back into research, back into our staff experience, and to supporting our students.  

diagram showing the progression of how data is collected and used

How is your data collected and what is it used for?

And it starts with you.  

To submit your Equal Opportunity data today:  

  • Log into HR digital services 
  • Access My Profile (click your photo in the top left or right-hand corner of the screen)  
  • Click Equal Opportunities in the drop-down menu on the left and update the details in My Profile.  

All your personal data is anonymised will never be identifiable. Visit Equal Opportunity Data webpages to see how your data is used and protected.  

 

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