Anti-racism at Edinburgh College – One year on from George Floyd

Today, 25 May 2021, marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, an event that sparked the resurgence of international anti-racist movements and conversations across the UK about the ongoing reality of racism. Equalities Officer Bethany reflects on a year of action at Edinburgh College, and looks towards the future:

As part of our commitment to stand against racism and discrimination in all forms at Edinburgh College we wanted not merely to condemn racism and inequality in words but also in action, and put forward a plan to create a more inclusive and anti-racist environment for our EC Community. Over the past twelve months we have taken the time to understand how we can play our role in influencing positive change by listening, learning and taking action.

What we’ve done so far 

In Summer 2020, Principal Audrey Cumberford signed the AdvanceHE ‘Tackling Racism on Campus’ Project’s Anti-Racism declaration alongside over 40 other colleges and universities across Scotland. This declaration acknowledges that racism exists on our campuses and in our society, and firmly rejects it in all its forms, stating that we stand united against racism. Our Board of Management also reaffirmed its commitment to tackling racial discrimination and inequality and committed to better BAME representation on the Board. Over the last year, members have undertaken Unconscious Bias training, and have invited me to attend their Nomination Committee meetings to discuss how to embed anti-racism into the Board recruitment process.

Educating our workforce

Staff across the College have engaged in a variety of training programmes on racism and bias over the last year. The Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators delivered ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ training for managers at the College, a course which covered the core concepts and research around racism in the UK and in our educational institutions. It asked managers to reflect on how to embed anti-racism into their own practice. Discussions on the next steps are ongoing. Last summer, I also redeveloped the College’s Unconscious Bias training course which is available for all staff to book onto during Learning and Development weeks.

Diversifying our workforce

Amazing work has been done within our HR team to investigate and tackle inequalities in recruitment and employment. The College’s Head of HR and OD Sue is chairs the ‘Tackling Underrepresentation of Ethnic Diversity in the Workplace’ short life working group as part of the AdvanceHE Tackling Racism on Campus Project, and the recommendations of this group are set to be incorporated into recruitment and other HR processes. We are one of the first colleges in Scotland to publish ‘Race Pay Gap’ reporting. Using similar methodology to gender pay gap reporting, which looks at the difference in the average earnings of men and women, race pay gap reporting looks at the difference in the average earnings between colleagues from a white British background and colleagues from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic backgrounds. Our data shows that a gap currently exists: monitoring this gap will provide key evidence of the impact of other anti-racism work at the College.

An Anti-Racist Curriculum

Challenging the ways that racism impacts our curriculum is a key task of educational institutions including our College. Performing Arts Curriculum Manager Ethelinda is a member of the Anti-Racist Curriculum group which is part of the AdvanceHE Tackling Racism on Campus Project, and we hope that this group’s recommendations form the basis for evaluating our own practice as a college.

Taking a unified stance

Listening to staff and students about their experiences is essential. ECSA’s Student Officers have spearheaded work over the last year to engage with our student community through events like Black History Month, even throughout the difficult circumstances presented by COVID-19. Head of HR and OD Sue, Performing Arts Curriculum Manager Ethelinda and myself have set up a new College Anti-Racism Unity Group to bring together colleagues who are passionate about racial justice and influence change across the College. This group is still open for new members – please feel free to join us!

What we will do next

Looking forward, we have just published our Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report 2021-25. This Report sets the following goal:

Equality Outcome 6: Staff and students are more confident that the College is taking action to prevent and tackle racial and religious harassment and discrimination.

With this Equality Outcome, the College commits to continuing its work to tackle racial and religious discrimination over the next four years, by creating the opportunities to have difficult conversations through staff networks, training sessions, and surveys, and taking forward recommendations from expert groups on how to eliminate racism in our curriculum and employment practices.

Our aim is that both staff and students feel welcome, respected, and included, and feel confident that the College has committed to its declaration to stand united against racism, not merely in words but in actions. An update on this outcome will be published in the Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Progress Report in 2023.

Final thoughts

Anti-racism is not about any single action, or something which can be ‘solved’ within the space of a year. It is about working together towards the anti-racist culture and society that we want to live in. Today, I encourage you to take a moment to commit to one anti-racist action: whether it’s sharing this blog post, reading books like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’, watching a film or documentary, or joining the Anti-Racism Unity Group.

Read Edinburgh College’s Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report, which includes the College’s race pay gap reporting.

Read about the AdvanceHE Tackling Racism on Campus Project.