Tackling Racism at the University of Portsmouth

Your Elected Officers and BAME Ambassadors have written a formal letter to the University Executive Board and Board of Governors to address concerns to the progress on tackling racism at our University.

  • Posted Wed, Mar 3, 2021 9:30 PM

What have we done?

The University of Portsmouth Students’ Union has been working on several priorities over the last year for our students during the global pandemic. One of these has been tackling racism in higher education, a project which cannot be put on hold because of a pandemic. The Union has recently implemented a Zero Tolerance to Racism Policy. This is to ensure every student who faces discrimination or harassment on campus feels confident in the Union's process and system that their case will be dealt with justice and feel better supported, with the wellbeing of the student at the forefront. 

To continue this work, the Union’s Elected Officer team and BAME Ambassadors formally wrote to the University’s Executive Board and the Board of Governors on Thursday 25th February to address some of the Union’s serious concerns with the efforts to tackle racism within our institution and the wider higher education environment. As a representative body, we feel it necessary to share this letter with our students to remain transparent and allow students to see how seriously the Union is taking this matter to work with the University to truly make a positive impact for our BAME students a priority. 

Why have we done it?

The formal letter that we sent to the University addressed many of the reasons as to why we are doing this work and we encourage all of our students to read this letter, but in principle as a Union, we do not feel that the work being done at the University of Portsmouth to tackle racism is being actioned quickly enough, especially compared to other Higher Education (HE) institutions and based on the report published by Universities UK on tackling racial harassment in HE. We also feel that microaggressions and systematic racism is still tolerated at the University, even if not intentional, with not enough tangible action being taken against this. 

As a Union, we work in partnership with the University on many campaigns and projects and we are proud of a lot that we have been able to achieve together for students, especially during the global pandemic. However, there are some occasions, such as tackling racism, where our obligation as a representative membership organisation calls for us to hold the University accountable and this is what we feel we have done with our formal letter, to drive positive change for our students that are impacted now and not just those in 4 years time. Our Elected Officers and BAME Ambassadors have sat in several meetings with the University to assert their concerns but to no avail and therefore, for the benefit of our students to ensure they are represented, felt it best to address these concerns in a formal letter. 

“What we ideally want to see is the University adopting their own Zero Tolerance to Racism Policy as a request from our BAME Ambassadors. We should be engaging and educating our students and staff in the first instance, but we also need to enforce repercussions for continued offences. It’s not good enough as an institution to not be racist, we have to be anti-racist” - Rama Hilouneh, Learning Experience Officer

We will be reaching out to our BAME student community in the coming weeks to capture further feedback on their experiences and the barriers they face when reporting certain issues. In the mean time, any students that feel impacted by the work that the Union is doing towards tackling racism and wish to be involved, should contact electedofficers@upsu.net and/or bameambassadors@upsu.net 

The University's Response

On Thursday 4th March we received the first initial response from Graham Galbraith, Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of the University Executive Board in the form of a letter addressed to the Elected Officers and BAME Amabassadors. 

"Although we welcome the quick response from the Vice Chancellor, we are disappointed with the outcome of the letter. We do not believe that all our points and demands of the university have been addressed or acknowledged. This is a matter that has affected the lives of many students and must be taken more seriously. In the meantime we will continue to work with our BAME Ambassadors to make sure these concerns remain a priority at both the Union and the University. We hope to expect more information within the coming days." - Rama Hilouneh, Learning Experience Officer and Destiny Karakus, Democracy & Campaigns Officer

We await further response to items addressed in our letter as highlighted in this initial response and will keep students updated.

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