HR - learning & organisational development

BAME Staff Network

13 May 2020

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As part of ‘BAG’ week, find out more about the BAME staff network and the people who chair it.

Dave Thomas – Occupational Therapist/Project Manager

I am an Occupational Therapist and Public Health Specialist, with a remit in social justice. I am also a member of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, Royal College of Occupational Therapists and Royal Society of Public Health. Additionally, I am the Equalities Officer for the University of Kent UNISON branch.

I completed a BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy degree, graduating with First-Class Honours and was awarded the CE Opus Prize for Highest Academically Achieving Occupational Therapy Student. I subsequently went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health. I am currently reading for a PhD in Higher Education, where I am interested in how Westernised ontology, epistemology and pedagogy shape the educational trajectories, outcomes and interests of students from racially minoritised backgrounds in higher education.

I joined the University of Kent in May 2015. I and am currently employed as a Project Manager on the institutionally funded Student Success project within the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

I am a founding member and Co-Chair of the university's BAME Staff Network.

I am interested in identifying the institutional policies, processes and practices, as well as organisational and structural factors that promote disparate outcomes and inequalities for staff who identify as belonging to Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds within the university. I am also interested in working collaboratively to present recommendations for redress through culturally sensitive policies, processes and practices.

Importantly, it is imperative to understand that BAME staff are not a homogenous group. Research informs us that BAME staff in universities are affected by overlapping and independent systems of discrimination that serve to promote and maintain structural inequalities. I am particularly interested in working collaboratively with colleagues and the University's Senior Management team to explore the extent to which the University's policies, practices and processes combine to create unique modes of discrimination because of BAME employees' political and social identities (for example, race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc.).

Staff who identify as belonging to a BAME background at the University of Kent possess a wealth of expertise, knowledge, skills and experiences. It is imperative that the University harnesses these assets to contribute to the development and maintenance of a healthy environment, where all employees can work and flourish. In an ever increasingly multicultural society, I am motivated to ensure that the University's policies are culturally sensitive in order to meet our legal obligations (for example, as laid out in the Equality Act (2010) and Public Sector Equality Duty), corporate social responsibilities and social justice imperatives. Diversity is good for business!

If you have not yet joined us, I would invite you to consider this, as your voice is important. 

Contact details:

School of Sport and Exercise Sciences

Medway Building

Gillingham, ME4 4AG

Email: d.s.p.thomas@kent.ac.uk

Telephone: 01634 888457

Twitter: @DaveThomasOT

www.kent.ac.uk/studentsuccess   

Dr Barbara Adewumi – Postdoctoral Research Associate Student Success (EDI) Project

I first started teaching at the University of Kent in 2008 whilst studying for my PhD. I was an Associate Lecturer for SSPSSR Medway working across the Sociology, Criminology and Social Work teams. I currently work for the Student Success Project Central Team in Canterbury. I have a particular research interest in the progression of race equality in our institution to improve student experience and help reduce differential gaps between white and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students.

I have always been interested in race and education and BAME career aspirations in British society and according to the McGregor-Smith Review on 'race in the workplace' it states that all BME groups are more likely to be overqualified than White ethnic groups but White employees are more likely to be promoted than all other groups, see full review: McGregor-Smith Review, 2017. In HEIs many BAME staff experience barriers and challenges whilst trying to progress in their careers. Feelings of marginalisation, invisibility and imposter syndrome due to unconscious bias can often overlook BAME staff's knowledge and contribution to their field. BAME academic and professional staff at Kent possess a plethora of knowledge, skills and expertise that are dispersed across the institution. This network is an ideal place where staff can come together, share experiences and help staff gain confidence in career development.

I decided to become a Co-Chair for the BAME staff network as I feel it is important to get involved, make positive changes for progression in race equality and it is essential to collaborate with other staff to support, encourage and provide a platform for others. Working for such a large institution can be overwhelming and emotionally exhausting, so it is vital for us to reflect and share our experiences to help support one another and working as a collective can empower BAME staff to make informed decisions and engage with senior management in advocating for cultural institutional change through equality agendas such as the Race Equality Charter.

The network will allow you to connect with other members who have faced or currently facing similar challenges. We offer a safe environment to discuss work -related issues, learn and become empowered, support with career development and work with others on social and professional events across the institution. There is no pressure in committing and we welcome new and existing members to engage in whichever activity suits their needs.

Please contact me on ba282@kent.ac.uk  Tel: 01227 823086.

Dr Bridget Ng'andu – Lecturer and Director of Studies BA Social Work

I joined the University of Kent in September 2017 as a Lecturer on the Social Work programme. Prior to that I had worked in a College, Ruskin, in Oxford where my career in academia started. I am currently a Lecturer and Director of Studies for the BA Social Work programme.

I have always been passionate about issues affecting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups in society including experiences of staff member in institutions of Higher Education. My experience of working at the University has been a positive experience, with a supportive Team and colleagues.  However, I am aware that experiences may differ across the University.   It is evident from research, that BAME academics face many challenges such as ethnic/gender pay gap. Research by the University and College Union published in the Guardian Newspaper in 2019, found that BME (BAME) university staff faced a pay gap of between 9% and 14% compared with their white colleagues. The report further notes that BAME/BME staff are underrepresented in senior positions, for example, '84% of academic staff are white, but 93% of professors are white, as are 91% of academic-related managers' (Weale 2019:1). Please see article at https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/oct/15/uk-universities-bme-staff-less-likely-to-hold-top-jobs.

Other challenges experienced by academics are issues of discriminations, micro-aggressions, harassment and bullying. These issues contribute to BAME/BME academics presenting with mental health issues. Jason Arday (2019) reports that BAME staff in academia, experience mental illness due to continuous racial inequality and discrimination in academia. He states that this can take covert and overt forms, including recruiting biases. Please see the full blog at https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/racism-academia-has-major-impact-bame-staff-mental-health.

I joined the BAME Network to have an opportunity to contribute to the awareness of the contributions staff make to the University. Being a member gives me an opportunity to be part of a collective group that can contribute to the University conversation on issues that affect us. It also gives me an opportunity to meet colleagues from different parts of the University to share experiences (both positive and negative) of academic life at Kent and generally. Joining the network will give us a strong voice in the University to influence University Policy and structures. If you have not yet joined us, I would invite you to consider this, as your voice is important.

Contact details:

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Social Work Department

University of Kent

Gillingham Building

Vanisha Jassal – Senior Lecturer and Acting Director of Studies, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR)

I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, teaching an MA programme to experienced professionals in the field of child protection. I am also studying a PhD part-time with the University of Kent, examining cultural concepts of shame and honour in cases of child sexual abuse amongst British South Asian communities. It was in the main, my PhD, which made me reflect upon structural inequalities existing in society and I was keen to address, through my research, the practice and policy gaps which appear to be failing children in some communities (Kirton, 2018). For full article visit: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/69302.

I joined the University in 2012 and my role in the International Centre for Child Protection as Acting Director of Studies, has taught me much about the Higher Education sector and I value the opportunities and support that I have been able to access.   One thing I was starting to reflect upon was the experience of my BAME students as I had started to attend seminars delivered through the Student Success (https://www.kent.ac.uk/studentsuccess/) and Decolonising Curriculum projects (https://research.kent.ac.uk/sergj/kaleidoscope-network-decolonising-the-university/). I became more familiar with issues around the attainment gap and the need for all students to have access to a curriculum to which they can relate. This sprung out at me, having been through the whole UK education system myself and having always questioned what is generally a very narrow and Western school and university curriculum.

I very much believe that education needs to be a balanced and broad account of social and political history and BAME students, as do all students, need to be exposed to readings, lectures and lecturers which reflect their own experiences (as well as the experience of other cultures and countries). Thereafter, began my journey to decolonising the curriculum on which I teach and it is good to have had the support of colleagues in this endeavour.

I became involved in the BAME Staff Network because there were parallels in terms of BAME staff sense of 'belonging' too. I could relate to much of what was being discussed during early meetings and was quite surprised by research and data reflecting some critical inequalities in the progression of BAME staff across our own University and nationally. There is much written about this and the Think Kent lecture by Dr Madeleine Wyatt is a good starting point on the topic.
Visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzgl9epnPxc.

I am also someone who cares deeply about mental health and wellbeing and became concerned that due to feelings of not belonging or faced with structural barriers that appear too high to overcome, BAME staff mental health would also most probably be a factor which needed to be investigated.
For relevant article visit: link to https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/racism-academia-has-major-impact-bame-staff-mental-health

I am excited and honoured to be a member of a Network which is seeking to make my workplace, which I love and enjoy, a stronger institution through addressing the very fundamental issues around equality and diversity. I hope you will become a part of us.

Contact details:
Tel: 01228 823737 |Email: v.jassal@kent.ac.uk|Website: mysandtray.com |Twitter: @vanishajassal

Registry, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 764000 or contact us

Last Updated: 26/02/2018