Students Staff
University of Essex

June 17, 2020

VC’s weekly email

Dear staff and students,

I want to take the opportunity of my weekly email to update you on work that is now underway to ensure that the experience of University staff and students lives up to our commitment to be an inclusive community.

On 3 June I acknowledged that racism exists within our University and that we can and must tackle this head on, both at a systemic level and in confronting the ways in which racism affects the everyday lives of Black students and staff. We have established a working group comprising students and staff, including representatives of the SU, and we have launched an initial listening phase that offers our community of students, staff and alumni a range of ways to share their experiences. As part of this work we are holding a Tackling Racism webinar on 18 June. If you would like to participate please register here.

An interim report from the working group setting out the themes that are emerging from the initial listening phase will be discussed by Council’s Resources Committee on 22 June and by Senate on 24 June. The final report following the end of this listening phase on 19 June will be considered by USG on 30 June and Council on 9 July and will also include proposed actions which the working group recommends are taken in order to tackle racism.

The University does not want to prejudge how the work should be taken forward until we have collected input through this initial listening phase – other than making a clear commitment that our next steps must be focused on ensuring we take action in a sustained way. We want to be held to account in making rapid progress to address racism where it exists on our campuses, and it is essential that what we do and how we do it has the support of Black students and staff.

In our University Strategy 2019-25 we have re-framed our priorities to emphasise our commitment to putting staff and students at the centre of everything we do. This commitment reflects our values of inclusion, partnership and community. We need to do more to ensure that we can understand, in a systematic way, the everyday lived experiences of the diverse  groups of students and staff that comprise our University.

We have to ensure the lived experience is a regular and consistent focus for each of us as individuals, and informs all our planning and decision-making processes. It is clear that we have been too reactive in the past and that we need to be more responsive to the needs of our diverse communities in the future. On 9 July, in addition to considering the report from the working group, Council will discuss our approach to diversity and inclusion in general and will be asked to agree proposed actions to ensure that we are positioned to do better in future.

I know that policies and processes alone do not create inclusive environments and this is why we want to take an approach which places as much emphasis on how people behave as it does on policy and process. If you have any ideas that you would like to share, please email us at diversity@essex.ac.uk

Anthony Forster

Vice-Chancellor

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