Response from Chair of Council to Cardiff University BME students - 20/03/2019
Thank you for your open letter referring to Professor Dinesh Bhugra’s report examining issues of Racial Equality at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, published in January 2017, and the actions taken thereafter.
I would like to take this opportunity to stress the University’s commitment to an ongoing dialogue about race. We, therefore, welcome the feedback that you have provided to us. We want to reassure you that it is the firm view of Council that racism and discrimination have no place in modern society. We all have a responsibility to build a sense of common purpose towards social justice.
Council fully supported the University’s decision to commission the independent review, which looked at the whole University and not just the School of Medicine, and to accept all of its 13 recommendations. A dedicated Equality and Diversity Project Officer was recruited to oversee the work as part of a wider equality team. In addition the University has appointed a Dean of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion who has taken forward the race equality agenda as part of the role. A full report on progress was presented to Council on 9 July 2018 and Council has been pleased to see clear and demonstrable action against each recommendation. At every possible opportunity the University has involved the students affected and included them in the process of change. I am happy to make the full report on our actions available and would also like to reassure you that our commitment is ongoing.
The independent review for Cardiff University was as much about addressing the culture at Cardiff University as it was about responding to an incident, recognising that in order to shape meaningful change, the University needed to engage openly with the race equality agenda.
Extensive training sessions on equality and diversity have been undertaken within the School of Medicine, with positive feedback. Further, the School worked with an external reconciliation organization, Wales Restorative Approach Partnership (WRAP) to develop a programme of support and reconciliation for the affected year group. The University has also established a Race Equality Supervisory Panel to provide appropriate advice on any race related incidents that arise. Racial inequalities are a sector-wide issue that universities need to recognise and address through meaningful collaboration with students and staff.
As indicated in the open letter, the University is currently working with the Vice-President for Welfare to develop a BME Student Support Plan. This includes the convening of a peer support BME student focus group with the aim of developing sustainable approaches that promote better health, wellbeing, mental health and transition to university. It also includes training on peer led bystander training and further EDI training. We are also proposing to create a culturally diverse events calendar for our Residence Life programme, including celebrations for religious based holidays and BME national awareness events.
I am also pleased to report that the Vice-Chancellor provided funding to support Black History month.
Throughout this difficult period the University has sought to support the complainants and to commend them for their courage in coming forward. We take allegations of racism extremely seriously and urge any student or member of staff to raise any concerns via our formal complaints procedure.
In relation to the request to publish the 32 student letters of apology we have made it clear throughout the process that this is not possible due to Data Protection and Fitness to Practise regulations. However, we did ensure that all complainants were provided with a supported opportunity to read the letters of apology.
I would like to end this response by reassuring BME students that they are welcome and valued at Cardiff University. We constantly strive to be a diverse and inclusive community.
I would like to give the last word to Professor Bhugra who commented in 2017: “The University should be commended for taking such a proactive step and its commitment to independent scrutiny, openness and transparency. It has been a complex situation which the School of Medicine and the University responded to in a fair and suitable manner…we are encouraged by the extremely positive way the University – at all levels – engaged with our work and its clear commitment to equality and diversity.”
I endorse the above sentiments and look forward to continuing our work in this area.