The 2020 BAME Ambassador programme involved a group of students who assisted the University towards closing the Awarding Gap and improving the BAME Student experience. The Student Union launched the programme in March 2020 after months of hard work by its Officers, students and staff. At the start of the 2020-21 academic year, the programme has been renamed Race Equity Advocates.
Hi, my name is Ifeoluwa Rotimi (BSc Psychology with Business and Management) and, together with Arunima Singh (MSc Development Economics), we have been the Foundation Year and Business School Race Equity Advocates for 19/20. We both applied for these roles to be a part of the creation of an equal education system here at Sussex. It allowed us to assist in many aspects of improvement, from conversations on co-creation models of teaching and learning to decolonising the curriculum.
Part of our role required us to have honest conversations about race with the Heads of Departments and Schools, and ensure that we see action takes place as a result.
For example, the BAME Awarding Gap is the disparity between White students, and Black and Minority Ethnic students being awarded a 1st or a 2:1 degree classification. At Sussex, the Awarding Gap is 14.3%, with the Black Awarding Gap at 26%. When Sussex signed the Race Equality Charter ran by Advanced HE, they received guidance on how to identify and reflect on the many institutional and cultural barriers that obstruct progress for many BAME students and staff.
As Race Equity Advocates, we held many conversations with BAME students to talk about their experiences, and reflected on them when we pushed for a change in meetings. For example, many students told us that they found it hard to feel like they belonged at Sussex when they didn’t feel like they belonged in their university accommodation. As a result, we had meetings with the housing team on how they can diversify each accommodation block during both room allocation and the accommodation swap system. It has been difficult to make change through the existing system, but we hope to see some progress in this area soon.
We have worked on several projects this year. One of these projects is the BAME forum, an idea which has been proposed by the Race Equity Advocates, and something that we hope will be adopted. The idea is for the forum to be an open space for BAME students and allies to connect with alumni, take part in mentoring, and gain insight into what life is like in the business world after university. We aim to have two full-time officers who are BAME, appointed to manage the programme.
Secondly, the Business School realised that the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion website hadn’t been updated and there wasn’t a place where people could get educated on race issues at Sussex. Therefore, Mark Clark (Senior Lecturer in Management and Director of Teaching & Learning for the Central Foundation Years) has developed a Business School Race Equity Awareness page on Canvas, alongside increasing the visibility of BAME issues in a comms plan for the Business School.
We are so proud of the accomplishments we have made during the four months that we have been working as Race Equity Advocates, and we are looking forward to pushing for more inclusion of BAME students in all levels of student representation. We are also working towards making the process of how students report racial injustices more inclusive and user-friendly.
Finally, we also want to further support the decolonisation of our curriculum. We want to do this by exposing students to alternative viewpoints that may differ to the typical Eurocentric perspective that we may be accustomed to seeing. This scheme has allowed us to see that our voices as students matter, they carry weight, and that change comes from us speaking up.
Find the Race Equity Advocates on Instagram @sussexrea