Student Union at Man Met vows to change after admitting ‘failing’ black students
- Black Lives Matter movement prompts statement from Union
- Says there has been a 'visible lack of black students' in its organisation
- Vows to bring in changes for BAME students on campus
The Student Union at Man Met says it has let down black students by ‘failing’ to provide BAME students with a voice on campus.
Prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, the union has admitted there is “a visible lack of black students” in the organization and has vowed to change.
In a statement, the union said: “It is clear from the conversation that the Union has not existed as a space where black students are heard. This is an unquestionable failing of the union as a membership organisation and we are committed to addressing this inequality.”
It has promised to bring back BAME ambassadors, fund a black students’ campaign group, and appoint BAME members to its trustee board.
In an interview with NQ, the president of the Union, Evelyn Sweeney, outlines how she intends to support black students.
She said: “A strong sense of belonging is key to academic success. Yet so much about university life creates the sense that BAME students do not really belong—nationally curriculums are overwhelmingly white or western, support structures can be patronising or micro aggressive and there is a lack of BAME people in teaching and professional roles.
“The higher education sector sees itself as fair minded, progressive and inclusive, which makes the BAME attainment gap all the more shocking and reveals the truth of how deeply racism is embedded in our society.
“Ultimately, we want universities to be places where BAME students feel that they belong, are welcomed and valued. While the depth of racism suggests this is a long-term goal, BAME students need to see universities taking immediate action.
“For example, through staff training, accessible harassment reporting mechanisms and open dialogue with students and staff of colour about creating a sense of belonging. At the union, we’re committed to addressing this inequality and want to ensure that any progress made in the coming months is maintained.
“So we’ve asked our trustee board to agree key structural changes to guarantee BAME student voice in policy and political decision-making. We’ll also keep listening to students’ experiences and ideas for change and campaigns – and I’d like to encourage students to keep sharing them with us at [email protected]”
The African and Caribbean Society at MMU has more than 400 members and was voted Best Nationality and Culture Society and Best Society of the year at the society awards this year.
Introducing your new Acs Committee 2020/21 pic.twitter.com/U4lMuRVUzA
— MMU ACS 20/21 (@manmetacs) June 19, 2020
The aim of the society is to celebrate a shared black culture and to put on events such as mental health, social, educational, trivia nights and themed parties in the union.
Former president Chibesa Nolan, 23, a business management undergraduate, said that his experience with the union had been largely positive.
He said: “I do believe that MMU have provided me with a welcoming space. They have a lot of offices and support that have helped me open up about my education challenges. The staff that have helped me have been so welcoming and supportive also.
“The university has also a very large diverse range of students from different backgrounds and they also have a very diverse range of staff. The diversity is usually the first thing I look for to be myself, before looking for anything else.”
However, he believes more can be done to help BAME students settle into university life quicker.
“I believe that if the student union held more events for black people to socialise, a lot of us would have settled into university slightly quicker. The current first year students have also stated this to me,” Chibesa said.
Current member Leanne Dixon, , 19, said she joined the ACS “because I knew it would give me a sense of familiarity, being from the BAME category it can sometimes be difficult to find others who are of the same ethnicity or even just colour as you that you may be able to relate to. Joining the ACS gave me this and allowed be comfortable at university”.
She agrees with the Student Union’s idea of forming a black students’ campaign group, stating: “It is fundamental to have a black student campaign group as, black students voices also need to be heard, to shift systemic racism we must make small changes ourselves (within MMU) and enabling the chair of the campaign group to be a member of the union executive committee is a small step forward to obliterating this issue.”
Another member of ACS, Asharnah Sabrina, disagrees and believes that “the freedom to campaign on campus or hold events that we can use to raise awareness or even post things around university would be ideal” and would bring more results than a campaign group.
All Black Lives Matter UK, a youth-led pro black movement is co-founded by Tyrek Morris, a Multimedia Journalism student at MMU, and shows that students are actively challenging the inequality.
Tyrek said: “Being at MMU I’ve always felt a sense of freedom with regards to my work and me being able to express myself. I feel at university, MMU specifically you really gain sense of who you are.
“Moving to Manchester for university, I feel as though I became more conscious and aware of my blackness through meeting others like me who were also attending MMU.
“A lot of people within the black community are pushed to work as hard to get half of what their white counterparts get, I feel university should acknowledge that and award scholarships and bursaries to encourage black students.”