King’s College London students of colour and their allies walked out of class on Thursday morning in protest of the lack of action being taken to tackle the black and minority ethnic attainment gap within the college. This comes amidst appalling revelations that BME students nationally are 16.1% less likely to attain a 2:1 or a first in their degree.
Explaining why they organised the walkout, King’s students Maria Dadabhoy and Travis Alabanza told roar news, “We organised this walkout after we became increasingly frustrated with the responses we received from academic staff at the ‘Why is my curriculum White’ panel event. When pressed about tangible changes that are being done at KCL to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum and close the attainment gap, their answers suggested that the college is not responding as urgently as we’d like.”
According to the King’s ethnic minority association, ‘People of Colour’ is a term used to describe people who experience racism on a systematic and institutional level. The use of this term does not refer to the colour of someone’s skin. It is a political unifier that has been chosen by people of colour and not given to us by an oppressor. This is the significant difference between the term “people of colour” and “coloured people”. The latter is a racial slur that we did not choose and suggests that “colour” is something added to us to differentiate us from the implied norm of whiteness.
According to to the Black & Brown, Shut it Down! PoC & allies walkout Facebook page, the university management needs to take address the following issues:
1. Recognise, publicly acknowledge that, and apologise for the fact that the university is currently failing students of colour and to publicly commit to tangible change by the academic year 2016/17, these include:
2. Use headhunting, recruitment agencies and positive action to increase the numbers of staff of colour, with a special focus on Black staff, to 25% in academic year 2016/17 in order to reflect the student body. Use positive action to promote staff of colour into positions above Grade 5. *
3. Use positive action and financial incentives such as bursaries or scholarships to promote the progression of students of colour from undergraduate courses to postgraduate, especially for postgraduate researcher roles as they have decreased in BME students from 2013/14 to 2014/15 by 9%.
4. Commit to urgently reshaping the curriculum to fit voices of colour into academic structures. Ensure that there is no module that consists of only the contributions of white academics and/or scholars. Publish percentages that demonstrate the representation of sources from people of colour on module choices, so that it is transparent.
5. Embed compulsory cultural competency and LGBT+ healthcare workshops into dental, medical and nursing courses.
6. Revise complaints procedures for racism experienced on campus, especially when perpetrated by staff members. Take proactive steps to protect students of colour from harassment.
7. Provide students of colour at King’s with an academic of colour as a mentor from their first day of study onwards.
Point of Information
* Nationally BME staff make up 7.2% of the total population but at KCL 18.9% of UK staff are PoC, 4.9% identified as Black. This varied between 7.2% and 34.7% dependent on the School/Professional Service. Despite having a higher proportion than is the national average, BME staff at KCL are concentrated in junior levels (below Grade 5). BME staff at KCL have been identified as tailing off after Grade 5 and only 5% of all Grade 8 staff are PoC.