Since its very first inauguration tweet just over 3 weeks ago with the hashtag #UALSoWhite; the campaign calling out UAL’s lack of diversity/”liberation” and blatant discrimination, has gained momentum alongside tremendous support from students and staff alike. In the second #UALSoWhite meeting held yesterday, NUS Black Students’ Campaign (NUS BSC) Officer, Malia Bouatti joined student activists demanding recognition for BAME representation in the their academic institution – University of the Arts London (UAL). CLICK HERE for #UALSoWhite demands.
SUARTS Education Officer Bee Tajudeen facilitated the meeting which focused on the attainment gap, retainment and institutional racism existing in academic institutions. The meeting was also joined by Siohban Clay; Supporting Student Transitions Project co-ordinator, as an observer.
“What I like to do is insure that institutions don’t just fixate on narrowing the gap, because you can narrow a gap and find the one barely doesn’t exist in certain departments for example in schools etc, but institutional racism is still rampant. So I like to say, that this is one of the any factor that we look at in relation to how our institutions are essentially racist. So the things that I like to refer it back to are students’ experiences. So whilst the data is important, it has to always be alongside the qualitative information of what are experiences are, and why it is that we feel marginalised within a space and essentially oppressed as well.” – Malia Bouatti
“Institutions will pull a Baroness Amos out of the hat and say that’s it we’ve sorted it our institution is good. If the problems are perpetuated it’s on her; “well we put a Black person and she didn’t solve it’”- Maila Bouatti.
“It’s always important to correlate the experiences of Black staff, academic and non-academic staff and students. It’s really important that it is a coalition in terms of those experiences, and generally that all efforts are both staff and student lead – that’s when we’ve seen the most impact.” Malia
“The problem of the gap has existed since Windrush and we still haven’t solved it – why? Because you (senior management accountable) will not look at the fundamental structures of your own institutions. And the only way which to do that is to review everything, at the same time, but also put in place certain solutions, so like make interventions that will interrupt the way the cycle usually runs. So things like having Black people at the table that active in the efforts to decolonise eduction. But beyond that, feed it into the trainings that take place.” – Malia Bouatti
“So all Equality and Diversity training is pretty much inadequate. It’s about how do you address your oppressive thoughts and how do you keep it in in oder to keep your job safe and not create raucous in the class room or spaces of education. It’s not really about also understanding your own privilege and power within a certain space. The structural barriers, as opposed to the the student that is experiencing problems within the class room. Refuting deficit models based such as mentoring programmes that again problematise students, because it’s all about cutting the Black person out of the space, fixing them, and then re-inserting them in what you’re presenting to be a Utopic perfect space and system, that we’re just not good enough to succeed in – it’s actually that other space that needs to be reviewed” – Malia Bouatti
“When you’ve got an institution like this that looks at your face and says; “Well you’re gonna be stupid”, how do you combat that?” – Samia Malik
“You start by asking for conversations, let’s sit around the table, there’s a problem. That doesn’t work then you meet them with fierce opposition – raucous and threats. “This is going to damage you”, “we will continue going to the press about this”, “we will partake in direct action and this will not help your case”. If they only care about their reputation and bringing in the money, then your threats such be directed at that. There is always a way. Because also they’ll want to often instantly demonise you and say “you didn’t even ask for a meeting.” and it’s just like, pff, you’ve had this data for so long, and you haven’t even done anything. Even if people want to go straight to the point of threatening, they are every much entitled to so. Building a base of support outside which BSC and other groups will support in doing so.
Now is the time to strike, With everything that’s been going on in relation to Rhodes Must Fall, Why is my Curriculum White? And even Ministers looking at the attainment gap, I think it’s now that we can push the conversations to the pint where where we need it to be, and not at the point of compromise. We don’t want to keep going through this, and we don’t believe that anyone coming up after us should” – Malia Bouatti.
The #UALSoWhite campaign might seemed fascinating, especially to those non-black academics researching areas around BAME attainment, eager to join the discourse for their notes. However, as it was was emphasised yesterday, there is nothing “fascinating” about the state of an oppressive system. This struggle is real! Already aware of the fine line between solidarity for the *Black struggle from non-BAME staff, and attending the meetings for their own agenda, these student activists know that no amount of ‘note-taking’ will change the current situation – unless direct action is implimented. As a student pointed out; “racism is in Britain is so polite… So sly.” The same people attending your meetings – on your side, are the same one who can contribute to the never-ending cycle.
Special thanks to Malia, Bee and everyone one in attendace for allowing for this video footage to be captured.
Continuing with the discussion around race matters, join us for a student-staff collabortion event; “Why does race matter in my learning environment?” 6pm-9pm 21st April at UAL High Holborn. CLICK HERE to book! Open to students, staff and anyone interested in diversity/race matters! FREE.