Ramadan 2021

by
Student representatives of the Reading Islamic Society
Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, UoR Diversity and Inclusion Advisors   

 

What is Ramadan? 

Ramadan marks the month when the Holy Quran is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad PBUH by Allah (God). This is observed by a month-long fast. 

Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink for 30 days, including water, during daylight hours (from dawn to dusk), as a means of celebrating and reflecting on their faith. 

Fasting at Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam – the fundamental rules that all Muslims follow. Find out more about the five pillars of Islam in this video: Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars’. 

 

 

 

When is Ramadan?  

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar which consists of 12 months in a year of 354/55 days. In Arabic, this is called the Hijri Calendar and started with the migration of Prophet Muhammed PBUH to Madinah from Makkah 1442 years ago.

Due to the Islamic Calendar being based on the different phases of the moon, each of the months move back around 10 days each year. So, Ramadan could be in the middle of summer in 2015 and be in December by 2030This year, Ramadan begins on Monday 12th April, and will end on Wednesday 12th May. 

 

 

 

Who Takes Part in Fasting?  

Every Muslim should take part in Fasting, unless 

  • You’re too oldIf you have reached an age where abstaining from water or food is too difficult or impossible, then you do not and should not fast.  

 

  • You’re too young – Generally, children below the age of 14 do not fast, as it is too difficult physically but also because they do not fully understand the meaning and the spiritual importance of fasting.  

 

  • You’re traveling – Travelling is an excuse not to fast for the day/days you are fasting as it can be exhausting to travel and would therefore require food and water. However, the days you missed should be made up after Ramadan is over. The aim should be to have completed all 30 days of Ramadan fast before the next Ramadan.  

 

  • You’re sick – Whether you have a long-term or short-term illness, you are excused from fasting if fasting would make the illness worse or if it is simply impossible to abstain from food/water.  

If you have started the day fasting, but felt dizzy or sick, then you should immediately break your fast. Similarly, women who are experiencing their menstrual cycle are also exempt from fasting as the physical body is in a much weaker state and therefore requires nourishment.  

 

 

Top 10 Tips  

  • Plan Your Meals
    Eat fruits filled with water such as cucumber and watermelon to help with thirst during the day.
    Eat slow burning foods for suhoor such as porridge.
    Avoid fried foods!!! 

 

  • Plan your Study Schedule
    Some people prefer studying in the early afternoon, others prefer studying after Iftar when you’re no longer hungry and can focus much better. Find what works best for you and make a routine. 

 

  • Stay Consistent
    This is a month of reflection, so try to stay away from social media and TV which could distract you from your intentions of this month. 

 

  • Go on a Walk after Iftar!
    This will help digest the food better, make you feel energised and prepare you for 
    taraweeh 

 

  • Nap
    between 
    Duhr and Asr (if you don’t want to look like a zombie during iftar and it’s a beautiful Sunnah).

 

  • Keep Motivated
    Make a realistic Ramadan goal list and hang it up
    Make a list for the reasons for fasting to keep you motivated during the low-imaan Days
    Prepare a Ramadan playlist to listen to throughout Ramadan (Quran or lectures/podcasts) 

 

  • Learn/Implement New Habits
    that you can carry on after Ramadan – everyone has high imaan and the shaytan is locked up, a great excuse to implement small daily habits such as saying daily duas or giving a pound a day to charity or even improving our vocabulary.  

 

  • Evaluate and Reflect Throughout Ramadan
    Take time, even just 5 minutes, every night to check if you’re still on track to achieving yours goals, if not slightly amend them or work super hard the next daySince Ramadan is the month of the Quran, aim to read the Quran from beginning to end in this month, if you can, and reflect on the meanings. 

 

  • Plan to Spend as Much Time as Possible
    with 4 – your family, Allah, the Quran, yourself 

 

  • Enjoy Ramadan and Get Excited for Eid! 

 

 

 

 

How to Support Those who are Fasting  

If you do not observe the month of Ramadan, you can help Muslim family, friends, coursemates and colleagues by:

 

  • Trying not to schedule meetings around evening time (dusk) when the fast for the day ends, so they can eat on time.
  • Additionally, don’t schedule catch-ups over a lunch or dinner, as you will be the only one eating.
  • Don’t make a big deal about eating. Most Muslims don’t mind if you eat/drink near them so long as you’re not in their face about it.
  • Try not to get them involved in strenuous activities which could be tiring – otherwise it could make them feel even more weaker. 

 

  • Be understanding if they need more time in day-to-day activities, as time must be taken out for prayers. 

 

  • If you notice a Muslim peer not fasting for the day, don’t question it; they have their reasons for not doing so. 

 

  • Show your encouragement with kind gestures and words.    

 

  • Ask them how you could support them through this month e.g., any adjustments that may need to be made. Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s best to ask individually. 

 

  • Once Eid celebrations begin (which marks the end of Ramadan), wish your Muslim peers an Eid Mubarak, it means a lot! 

 

 

 

Further Resources 

 

 

  • Islam In Brief – An introduction to the teachings and history of Islam, from Harvard University

 

  • Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars – John Green teaches the history of Islam, including the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad PBUH, the five pillars of Islam, how the Islamic empire got its start, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and more

 

  • Anyone is welcome to join a collection of online events which are educational or in celebration of Ramadan by following the link to – Big Virtual Iftar

Faith or no faith, you’re all welcome to join us at the #bigvirtualiftar events via YouTube Live! Join the Muslim community in solidarity in this year’s month of #Ramadan during the ongoing #COVID19 crisis with people impacted by #lockdowns & #socialdistancing.We usually invite our non-Muslim friends from local communities to our Mosques to join us for the Big Iftar Dinner and we host them in a pleasant evening to talk about interfaith matters and to break bread with us. However, due to the current restrictions, so we would like to invite you to our virtual events which will consist of online live talks, a virtual tour of Britain’s biggest Mosque, National Fasting Challenge, personal stories of Muslims impacted by COVID-19, question & answer sessions and to watch people breaking a fast live.” 

 

  • The Muslim Council of Britain – This webpage shares guidelines, advice and signposting resources to help Muslims in Britain make the most of the blessed month, as well as friends, neighbours and colleagues of Muslims. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holi 2021

by UoR Hindu Society 

 

Holi is a Hindu festival that is known as the ‘festival of colours’. It is a festival that celebrates positivity, whether that be the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring or love.

 

What is Holi and Why is it Celebrated?

Holi gets its name from Holika, the sister of demon king Hiranyakashyap.

The story of Holi begins when King Hiranyakashyap received a boon from Lord Vishnu that made him invincible. King Hiranyakashyap though these powers made him worthy of worship and decided everyone should worship him over God. However, the King’s son Prahlad refused and continued to worship Lord Vishnu. The King was angered and tried to kill Prahlad with the help of his sister Holika. Holika convinced Prahlad to sit on a pyre with her as she had a special shawl to protect her from getting burnt. However, the shawl flew off Holika and protected Prahlad instead and he remained unharmed while Holika burned.

This story illustrates the triumph of good over evil.

 

How do we Celebrate?

Every year, a Holika bonfire is lit in order to remind us of this victory of good over evil. The next day people come together, throwing colours at each other, singing and dancing.

 

Events This Year 

Every year, the Hindu Society here at UoR hosts a Holi event for everyone to take part in. It includes music, dancing and lots of colour! Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, this year will be a bit different. The Hindu Society will be hosting a (virtual) Holi dance social on Tuesday 30th of March. It is open to everyone and more information can be found on our social media.

Get in touch through any of the below!

Instagram: @nhsfreading

Facebook: @ReadingHinduSociety

Email: nhsfreading@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Influential BAME Psychologists

by Renée Lee, Second Year Psychology Student

 

More often than not, the world is Psychology is heavily dominated by western influences, ideologies, and psychologists. Therefore, this post is to provide information about BAME psychologists and the influence they have had worldwide.

 

Firstly, Kenneth Bancroft Clark a psychologist who was an essential part of the infamous Brown v. Board of Education case in America during the Civil Rights Movement. He conducted a study – now named the “Doll Study” – in which a sample of 200 black children were given the choice of dolls: white dolls or brown dolls. Although the children were no older than 3 years of age, Clark’s findings indicated that children had a strong preference for the while dolls over the black dolls. From this, he therefore concluded that segregation in America was causing strong psychological damage to the black youth. This study helped the Supreme Court make the final decision to outlaw de jure segregation. In addition to his monumental achievement via his study, he was also the first ever black president of the American Psychological Association (APA)!

 

Another inspiring figure is Robert Williams II who created the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity in order to counteract the controversial American IQ test. The test he created utilised the common African American dialect (Ebonics) and shared anecdotal personal experiences. The test managed to conclude and show that black people weren’t any less smart than white Americans and that that differences in vernacular can skew results. Soon after conducting this test, he also created the term “Ebonics” which is the name for the African American vernacular.

 

Finally, Reiko True is a Japanese female psychologist. She attended university in Tokyo and was the one of the 3 females in her class of nearly 100. Due to her passion for equality in the mental health sector, she managed to create the first mental health centre in California specifically to serve Asian Americans. As mentioned in our previous email, it can be important for the BAME community to have therapists who can help relate to their experiences on a deeper level. True lead this centre herself and she ensured that the staff employed there were culturally aware and trained in Asian languages so they could provide the best care possible.

 

 

 

 

Discrimination and Disparities in the World of Psychology

by Renée Lee, Second Year Psychology Student and Professor Patricia Riddell, Director of WIDE

 

Within the field of Psychology, multiple students wish to progress into the clinical roles. Therefore, it is important for them to know about how the BAME community is treated in the medical health field. There are myths about BAME individuals that are important to address since they can consciously or subconsciously affect the way healthcare professionals provide care.

 

You may or may not already be aware that there is discrimination within the mental health sector of our NHS. According to government statistics (“Treatment for mental or emotional problems”, 2017), black individuals tend to experience worse mental health than white people, however, the latter are more than twice as likely to receive treatment for these problems. In addition to this, when mental health treatment is provided healthcare, it is often implemented through the criminal justice system. Further to this, 40% of black people are given compulsory treatment and drug therapy rather than receiving psychological talking therapies which are more commonly provided to white people. Moreover, black people are four times more likely to be arrested under the Mental Health Act in comparison to white people. It can, therefore, be argued that black people are treated more harshly than white people even before receiving any therapy sessions (“Discrimination in mental health services”, 2019).

 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (2018) in the UK also acknowledged that Black British individuals have more mental health conditions. This is results from greater incidence of poverty, homelessness, poorer educational outcomes, higher unemployment and greater contact with the criminal justice system in BAME communities than White communities (National Institute for Mental Health in England, 2003). This increases stress and has a negative impact on mental health (Bhui, Nazroo, Francis et al (2018). These differences can also result in culturally inappropriate treatment of BAME patients by healthcare professionals.

 

There is evidence that the BAME community, and particularly black men, do not always want to seek professional help partly as a result of cultural mistrust and clinician bias (Hankerson, Suite and Bailey (2015); Memon, Taylor, Mohebati et al, 2016). This is sometimes a result of stigma, lack of knowledge of resources available, or a lack of sensitivity of healthcare professionals to cultural sensitivities. One further reason that this mistrust exists is that, in some parts of the world, healthcare professionals have chosen to experiment on particular racial groups (for example, in the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Male Negro”). This practice is still in evidence today, for example, when French doctors insisted that COVID-19 trials and testing should take place in Africa due to the lower number of cases there. This led to outrage among the black community who pointed out that they are “not human guinea pigs” (“Coronavirus: France racism row over doctors’ Africa testing comments”, 2020).

 

Moreover, there are biases that relate specifically to the Black community that may affect the care that healthcare professionals provide. A common example is that clinicians have sometimes been found to underestimate the cognitive abilities of Black people as a result of stereotyping (Hankerson et al, 2015). Another example involves the idea of the “strong, independent black woman”. If healthcare professionals view black women as strong all of the time, then there is a possibility that they will be incorrectly diagnosed correctly and/or provided with inappropriate treatment.

 

Overall, this information provides evidence of the ways in which black people are discriminated against in the mental health sector. Whether it be access to treatment, diagnoses or the treatment prescribed, the BAME community are not always treated the same as the white community. The future generation of healthcare professionals need to realise how important it is to dispel biases both individually and as a community in order to provide effective treatment for all. No-one should be denied the best and most appropriate access to healthcare on the basis of their race or the colour of their skin.

 

 

 

 

Links to read more about the topics discussed above

 

 

References

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2021 – A challenged world is an alert world 

Why do we celebrate international Women’s day? 

Celebrated on 8th March annually, International Women’s Day is a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women globally. It is also a day to recognise steps taken towards gender equality and address action still needing to be taken.  
 

This year the theme of International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge. At the University of Reading, we have a long history of challenging the status quo of gender roles. Edith Morley was the first woman appointed to a chair at a British university-level institution, after becoming English professor at University College Reading (now the University of Reading). In her autobiography, she described the appointment as: 

 

my contribution to the battle for fair dealing for women in public and professional life” 

 

Our annual lecture in her name celebrates her contribution and provides a platform for us to amplify the voices of women today who are choosing to challenge the status quo.  This year, this special event featured writer, activist, podcaster and journalist, Scarlett Curtis. You can watch the event here again via this link. 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2021 at UoR  

 

We have asked our staff and students to tell us what the theme of #ChoosetoChallenge means to them. Here’s how they responded… 

 

 

Asaiel Alohaly 

PhD student in the corporate governance of Aramco 

 

I am a tree rooted home 

I am a summer breeze 

Flying everywhere 

I am diversity 

I am what I am 

 

By: Asaiel Alohaly 

 

 

 

Claire Collins  

Co-chair of the Women@Reading Network

 

Courage – this is my new mantra.  I don’t have much of it.  I am like the lion in The Wizard of Oz. 

If we don’t have courage, we will never be seen or heard. Our voices will be mute, our deeds and achievements will go unrecognised.  When other voices are loud and deep, we need to raise ourselves up and speak, with confidence and conviction. Other voices don’t wait to be absolutely true to facts when they speak, but they do so anyway.  We hold back, until we’re absolutely 100% sure that we are correct.  And while we wait, the world, and the opportunity has passed us by. 

Speak up with courage.  Do your deeds with courage. Be a human being on this planet with the courage that you are as good as any other and have the same rights as any other to be heard and seen.   

Rise up Women – and fill yourselves with Courage!!! 

 

 

 

Dr Bolanle Adebola 

Associate Professor of Law
Co-Lead for Diversity and Inclusion, School of Law
Co-Lead, UoR Staff BAME Network
Convener, Commercial Law Research Network Nigeria (CLRNN) 

 

I #Choose to Challenge (the Notion that Women are not Effective Leaders

The year 2020 was remarkable globally, as well as personally. It was the year of the pandemic which saw women disproportionately affected by the recession it precipitated. It was also the year in which female heads of government were applauded for their decisive leadership that averted the high death toll experienced in counterparts with male heads of government. The year of Kamala Harris – the first female and Minority Ethnic Vice President of the United States. Despite these strides, the Reykjavík Index for Leadership shows that women are still not considered equally able to lead as men.  

For me, 2020 was the year in which I stepped into visible leadership roles to challenge barriers, inequity and exclusionary practices. A negative experience in November 2019 led me to investigate the racial experiences of other colleagues at the University. The answers I found were heartrending. So, I chose to challenge by co-founding a network for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff in January 2020. Through the UoR Staff BAME Network, we raise awareness and challenge the experiences on which we once were silent, with the aim of influencing change. The University responded by commissioning the Race Equality Review co-led by one of its Minority Ethnic female Professors and deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Parveen Yaqoob.

I was also concerned for students from these Minority Ethnic communities. I became Co-Lead for Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Law, and through this role, investigated the possibility of an awarding gap for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students.  I found a gap, which averaged 10.3% across the group over the 3 years of data that we had. I disaggregated the data to ensure that we obtained an accurate picture of the gap for each Ethnicity. The picture was much starker for Black and non-Chinese Asian students. I chose to challenge the situation by engaging colleagues in conversations. In collaboration with a committee of staff and students, I embarked on awareness raising and solution seeking conversations. I am happy that several colleagues of all races and across functions are contributing to the change that is underway.  

As a leader, I have initiated and participated in several important but uncomfortable conversations in various spaces within my School and the wider University. It is not easy leading the charge but I #Choose to Challenge barriers, inequity and exclusionary practices.  

  

 

Poppy Lindsey 

RUSU Women’s Officer

 

#choosetochallenge non-intersectional feminism 

This International Women’s Day, I’m choosing to challenge non-intersectional feminism. I first of all want to highlight the fact I am a straight, white, able-bodied woman, and so there are many struggles faced by women globally that I can never understand. The main crux of intersectional feminism is that we, as feminists, should not and cannot focus solely on issues which only affect people reflective of ourselves. It is not effective to the women’s rights movement to view certain issues as ‘them’ problems – as feminists we must fight for the liberation of every woman, regardless of their race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, ability, and so on. One of the most important women’s rights activists in promoting intersectionality was Fannie Lou Hamer, who said: 

 “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free” 

 I’m often hit with the criticism: ‘We don’t need feminism! Women are equal in this country!’. The thing these people need to hear is that every year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18, and that there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. Should we not fight for these girls with no voice, just because it will most likely never affect us? As women, we cannot consider ourselves free when these shocking statistics still exist, and when female lives are being compromised to such an extent. This is why intersectionality is so important, and that racism has no place in the feminist movement.  

 

 

 

Dr Eileen Hyder 
PFHEA
Manager of FLAIR CPD Scheme 

 

#choosetochallenge injustice 

 Chain of solidarity and love – Women in Moscow took part in a ‘Chain of Solidarity and Love’ on Valentine’s Day in support of both Yulia Navalnaya (the wife of the jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny) and also women prosecuted for political reasons. The event’s organiser said, ‘Come with flowers, with red clothing items and with paper hearts attached to your clothes, on which you can write the names of the women with whom you want to express solidarity. We want to remind ourselves that love is stronger than fear’. I find it powerful and inspiring when women choose to challenge injustice in ways that show strength and gentleness simultaneously.   

 

 

 

Dr Ellen McManus-Fry  

Chair of the Parent and Family Network
Prospect Research Officer 


About this time, 3 years ago, I came back to work following maternity leave. My daughter was only 4 months old, due to how my husband and I had divided up our shared parental leave and was still exclusively breastfed. This meant that I needed to be able to express and store milk during the working day that my husband could then feed to our baby at home.  

Breastfeeding wasn’t something which had been mentioned at all in the maternity policy or in any other information I’d been given by the University, and I only knew that I could request to be provided with a suitable space to pump thanks to a colleague and friend, Nicola Hall, who had recently been through the same thing herself. I had great support and help from my manager and from Estates, who identified and adapted a room for me to use – installing a lock and blocking out the door window, albeit a week after I returned to work.  

However, I was surprised that there were no facilities already in place and there was a sense that I was the first woman to ever make a request like this, which I knew could not be the case. It didn’t feel right that the onus was on me, amid all the other challenges of returning to work after having a baby, to seek out and arrange these facilities; facilities which were vital to enable me to return to work whilst continuing to feed my child in the way I had chosen to.  

 Together with Nikki, I decided to investigate how other women had managed returning to work whilst breastfeeding and sent out an email asking for colleagues to share their experiences. I was shocked at some of the responses I got. Women had pumped in their cars; in the toilets; in managers’ offices, temporarily vacated; they had stopped breastfeeding sooner than they wanted to because they didn’t think it would be possible after they returned to work; they had to manage their schedule so that they could work from home during times when their child needed feeding. 

 Around that time the Staff Forum had put out a call for ideas for staff welfare projects and Nikki and I submitted a proposal to establish dedicated breastfeeding facilities on campus. We were successful, and although it has taken longer than expected, we will be ready to launch and promote our ‘parent-friendly rooms’ once the campus reopens. There will be three rooms (for now!): one in Meteorology at Earley Gate, one at London Road and one in the Library on Whiteknights, and they are intended to be comfortable, private spaces where colleagues can pump and store breastmilk or breastfeed privately, if the child is on campus with them. 

 The other, larger, thing which came out of this initial project was the establishment of the Parent and Family Network, which began in summer 2019 with Nikki and I as Co-Chairs. It has since grown to an active online community of over 300 colleagues, and I have a lot of plans for the Network in the future. I think there is great power and great value in colleagues connecting with each other to share their experiences, identifying where things could be improved and working together to make that improvement happen. 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all the contributors to this blog post! 

 

 

 

 

 

The Barriers and Facilitators to University Entry in Disadvantaged Students by Ethnicity

by Dr Ciara McCabe, Director of Outreach and the Reading Scholars Programme in Psychology at the University of Reading.

 

University graduates on average earn more money over their lifetime, spend less time in unemployment and even live longer than their non-university educated peers [1-3]. Therefore the Office for students states that ‘All students, from all backgrounds, with the ability and desire to undertake higher education, should be supported to access, succeed in, and progress from higher education’ [4]. Data taken from the 2020 Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS a UK-based organisation that operates the application process for British universities) reports that those with low socio-economic backgrounds, with a disability, mature students, care leavers and ethnic minorities, are all underrepresented at UK universities [5].

Outreach and widening participation work aims to close this gap by increasing applications from those considered most disadvantaged in society. In line with this, the University of Reading has outlined in its 5-year plan (2020/21 to 2024/5) that access for full-time first-degree entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds is their main focus.

 

 

Previous studies have tried to explain the student experience in those that are underrepresented in higher education but this has been mostly at the undergraduate and postgraduate level[6-10]. Less studies have focused on access to university for those in disadvantaged groups. One large survey ran by UCAS in 2016 on 16,000 UK domiciled applicants found that many students worry about financial implications of attending university and that advantaged students worried more about “fitting in”. Also disadvantaged students worried more about practical things like transport and accommodation [11]. The study also found that more advantaged than disadvantaged applicants said that ‘nowadays, almost everyone goes to university’. Applicants also reported limited access to widening participation programmes in general. There is much less qualitative data on the views of disadvantaged young people about university and even less, about how this might differ between ethnicities.

 

Therefore, we set out to examine views on access through the Reading Scholars Programme, a Widening participation programme for year 12 students at the University of Reading[12]. The programme aims to increase the number of university applications from disadvantaged students (Read the full selection criteria for the programme). As part of a scholars Psychology research project, we asked students about their views on university access and examined if this differed by ethnicity.

We found that Black, Asian, ethnic minorities (BAME) and White adolescents reported similar barriers (financial worries) and facilitators (getting a good qualification) to applying to University. However, there were some differences for example BAME participants stated that ‘having no choice’ was a reason they would apply to university while White participants did not mention this. When asked about studying close by or far away ~60% of BAME students said they would prefer to study close by, compared to 46% of White participants. Plus, only BAME students mentioned studying close by because of financial reasons.

 

This work extends previous studies by reporting the differences between disadvantaged students by ethnicity. Knowing how underrepresented groups differ in their views on the barriers and facilitators to university entry can help us to develop more targeted outreach and widening participation activities.

 

 

 

This blog refers to:
McCabe C, Keast, K and Kaya, SM. Barriers and Facilitators to University Access in Disadvantaged UK Adolescents by Ethnicity: A Qualitative study. Under Review.
Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, Whiteknights campus, Global Recruitment and Admissions Advancement Group, London Road Campus, University of Reading, Reading.

 

Referen­­­ces:
  1. Hummer, R.A. and E.M. Hernandez, The Effect of Educational Attainment on Adult Mortality in the United States. Popul Bull, 2013. 68(1): p. 1-16.
  2. Krueger, P.M., I.A. Dehry, and V.W. Chang, The Economic Value of Education for Longer Lives and Reduced Disability. Milbank Q, 2019. 97(1): p. 48-73.
  3. Pfeffer, F.T., Growing Wealth Gaps in Education. Demography, 2018. 55(3): p. 1033-1068.
  4. Office for Students (OFS), Securing student success: Regulatory framework for higher education in England. 2018.
  5. Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), 15th January Deadline Analysis. 2020.
  6. Morrison, N., M. Machado, and C. Blackburn, Student perspectives on barriers to performance for black and minority ethnic graduate-entry medical students: a qualitative study in a West Midlands medical school. BMJ open, 2019. 9(11).
  7. Stegers‐Jager, K.M., et al., Ethnic disparities in undergraduate pre‐clinical and clinical performance. Medical education, 2012. 46(6): p. 575-585.
  8. Lynam, S., et al., The experiences of postgraduate research students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic background: an exploratory study. 2019.
  9. Woolf, K., et al., Perceived causes of differential attainment in UK postgraduate medical training: a national qualitative study. BMJ open, 2016. 6(11).
  10. Woolf, K., et al., The mediators of minority ethnic underperformance in final medical school examinations. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 2013. 83(1): p. 135-159.
  11. Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, Through the lens of students: how perceptions of higher education influence applicants’ choices. 2016.
  12. University of Reading, The Reading Scholars Programme, in https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/ta/Reading_Scholars_Yr12_Brochure_2021.pdf. 2020.
Images sourced from:
https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/advantages-disadvantages-remote-jobs/
https://www.rawpixel.com/image/140559/premium-photo-image-college-students-group-study-academic

 

 

 

 

LGBT+ History Month: Pronouns

Collaboratively written by:
Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion  

Alina Tryfonidou, LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair 
Ruvi Ziegler, LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair  
Gemma Fitz, LGBT+ Staff Network Lead Ally 
Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor 
Hatty Taylor, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor  
Lennox Bruwer, RUSU Transgender Students Officer 

 

 

 

Pronouns

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir. 

(Stonewall Glossary of Terms) 

 

In February 2019, we launched Pronoun Badges across the University of Reading for all staff and students to pick up for free. This was a collaborative project between UoR’s LGBT+ Action Plan Group, the central D&I Team and RUSU. The aim of creating pronoun badges and distributing them across campuses was to start creating positive cultural change across our UoR community.  

However, over the last year, we’ve all been working more digitally and less on campus, or at least, around each other in person. As we’ve been communicating with each other more online, we may have noticed more people including their pronouns on their social media profiles and email signatures instead. Afterall, we’re not wearing our lanyards whilst on Teams! 

But why are people doing this and why is it important?  

 

 

Why Are Pronouns Important?

We initially wrote about the importance of pronouns in our blog piece back in February 2019 – Pronoun Badges at the University of Reading. 

We want our trans and non-binary colleagues and students to know, as well as our cisgender colleagues and students, that we not only support but encourage their expression of their gender identity. We want to recognise and respect the entire spectrum of gender and do all that we can to represent and celebrate the diverse community of identities that we have at Reading. 

We’re also more likely to be meeting colleagues and students online now. As such, by including our pronouns in our digital presence, such as in our email signature, we are able to quickly and easily self-identify and indicate to the people we are talking to the correct pronoun to use when referring to ourselves 

When pronouns are clearly displayed alongside our name, we can all challenge immediate assumptions that might be made about gender. Assumptions might be made based on physical appearance, the spelling of our names and sometimes perhaps even based on our job role. This can lead to misgendering.    

For many people, worrying about which pronoun others use to address them might not have ever been a problem. Not everybody has this privilege of a visible gender identity. When referred to someone with the wrong pronoun, an individual can feel disrespected, invalidated, and alienated. Similar to when another person might consistently pronounce or spell your name incorrectly. These are significant elements of our identities and so are important to get right. Inclusion is key in making us all feel psychologically safe at work and consequently, be able to be our authentic self.  

Our everyday language is rife with gender associations, and this may go unnoticed if you have never given much thought to your own gender identity or expression. For someone who has experienced any incongruence with the gender assigned to them at birth, the language we use can be a daily reminder of their struggle. Try to spot times in your language where you are making assumptions about gender. For example, rather than using “he or she” when talking about a hypothetical situation, substitute “they.” 

We can’t tell what someone’s pronouns are by looking at them. Knowing and using the correct pronouns for someone is a positive way for us to support the people we work with. It also makes our working and learning environment more comfortable and safer for everyone.  

By taking a small and simple step such as including our pronouns in our email signatures, we can show that we care about and respect the people we work with and move towards becoming a more inclusive organisation.  

 

 

“As a trans person, it can be disheartening to be the only person in your network including your pronouns in your email signature, and many of us avoid sharing our pronouns, and can endure misgendering as a result. When I see my peers and colleagues sharing their own pronouns in their email signatures, the act feels normalised, and I feel safer to share my own pronouns.” 

Lennox Bruwer, RUSU Transgender Students Officer 

 

 

 

Allyship

One of the most important aspects of being an ally is visibility. By showing your support and being proactive, you are helping to create a safe and inclusive space for our LGBT+ community. Stating your own pronoun preferences in your email signatures and other digital resources helps by making this become standard practice and encourages our LGBT+ staff and students to feel comfortable and confident doing the same.   

 

“As an ally, I have found it very useful for everyone to state their own pronouns when introducing themselves within a meeting. I first saw this approach being used in the Stonewall events and meetings that I have attended, and I think this is best practice.” 

Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion  

 

 

FAQs 

How do I ask someone what their pronouns are?  

If you are being introduced to someone, you can start by stating your own pronouns. This helps by giving them the opportunity to share theirs too but also lets them know they are talking to an ally.  

You can ask someone what their pronouns are, or how they like to be referred to, in the same way you would ask someone their name. Also, listen and follow their lead on how they refer to themselves. It is always better to ask rather than assume or guess, however remember that not everyone may want to share their pronouns. If this is the case, do not press the matter and use neutral pronouns such as them/they. Neutral pronouns should also be used in situations where it is not appropriate to ask or if you are in doubt.   

 

What do I do if I use the wrong pronoun for someone?  

Do not panic or make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be. Quickly apologise, correct yourself and move on. We all slip up sometimes, out of habit or forgetfulness, the important thing is to show you are genuinely making an effort to use the correct pronouns and that you apologise when you get it wrong.  

 

 

 

Further Resources

For more information on LGBT History Month www.lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk 

10 ways to step up as an ally to non-binary people – Stonewall Staff  

Talking about pronouns in the workplace – Human Rights Campaign Foundation  

Pronouns 101: Why They matter and What To Do (and Not Do) If You Misgender Someone – Kay Martinez  

 

 

Raising undergraduate aspirations through career mentoring?

Tania Lyden, Career Consultancy Lead: curriculum and academic engagement, July 2020

The Thrive Career Mentoring evaluation reports for undergraduates at the University of Reading showed that mentoring had raised 41% of mentees career aspirations: convincing given the potential mentoring seems to have for influencing social mobility. To harness these findings to influence the University’s Graduate Outcomes, we needed to better understand the processes involved. We needed to know which of our mentees had raised career aspirations and examine whether particular widening participation (WP) students were benefitting or not  How had this change in aspiration happened? What processes were involved and how could we enhance the scheme?

From previous career mentoring research, certain theories and studies had come to the fore to help understand how mentoring worked, particularly in relation to WP students. These included: Bourdieu’s work on social reproduction and subsequent theories such as Hodkinson’s ‘horizons for action’; career identity theories (Meijers & Lengelle, 2012) and employability models  (Dacre-Pool & Sewell, 2007), (Tomlinson, 2017), including self-efficacy, (Bandura, 1977) alongside theories on mentoring processes ( (Kram, 1983), (Bouquillon, Sosik, & Lee, 2005), (Ragins, 1997)).

What emerged were several questions. Did mentoring provide students with a changed view of the labour market (field[1]), whether more detailed, broader or simply different and what was the impact of this: greater self-efficacy in relation to a specific career and a shift in career identity? Did mentees experience changes in their ‘habitus’[2]  or get a better sense of the tactics necessary, or ‘feel for the game’, for those roles? Did this also impact on their self-efficacy about securing a more aspirational role? Did mentoring processes such as cognitive overlap between mentor and mentee, recognition, identification, integration and trust feature and were their aspirational shifts consequences to this?

The current before and after surveys for career mentoring were adjusted to ask about student perceptions around career aspiration before and after mentoring, with analysis around why mentee’s perceived it had happened and also some analysis of the shift in occupations sought. This would reveal which students had raised aspirations. Focus groups would deliver a better understanding of the processes involved. However, this approach became challenging and interviews were opted for instead. Importantly, survey analysis revealed that what mentees viewed as raised aspirations, for the most part, did not seem to be. The researcher used the interviews to explore this misunderstanding about raised aspirations and why mentees answered yes, when their reasoning behind the answer suggested otherwise and what this meant for the mentoring programme. Unfortunately, only two WP students volunteered to take part in deeper qualitative research so each was undertaken as a case study.  The research revealed some interesting results. Firstly, a higher percentage of mentees from BAME groups and/or NSSEC category 4, 5, 6 and 7 reported raised aspirations compared to non BAME mentees and mentees from NSSEC categories 1, 2 and 3. Conversely, mentees reporting disabilities and/or who had lived in low participation neighbourhoods (Polar Q 1 and 2) had a lower percentage reporting raised aspirations. After analysing any association between these characteristics and raised aspirations using Chi Square tests, it was revealed that none of these results were statistically significant. The tests relied on small numbers of participants for the WP categories particularly, but the Chi Squared tests were valid.

Secondly, our qualitative survey analysis revealed only a handful of students had actually adjusted their career goals. What the others reported was feeling more focused regarding their career options (31%), having chosen a specific career path (24%), feeling more ambitious (7%), broadening their outlook (5%), feeling more certain about their career choice (5%) and having higher self-belief about their chosen career option (5%). The pie chart shows this breakdown. What this reveals is that for the vast majority of mentees their journey seemed to be more about making career choice progress and/or feeling more committed and ready to apply for the roles they aspired to do, rather than aspiring to ‘higher level’ roles. Without career mentoring, they may not have made a choice, not been committed enough, have lacked self-belief and potentially reverted to non-graduate level applications.

In terms of shedding light on the processes involved, the two interviews provided rich, useful data. The participant names have been changed to ensure privacy.

Jack was a male, part two, BAME mentee and a mature student. He clearly displayed higher self-efficacy due to achieving a more realistic, up close view of the career he aspired to, and the lifestyle that accompanied it, through his relationship with his mentor. This seemed to show symbolic modelling (Bandura, 1977). 

I feel it’s been less about raising my goals as about specifying them. Again, making them more realistic, actually making them a reality. It’s become a lotless nebulous now. It looks a lot more concrete now.

He received reassurance from a likeminded, yet demographically different, role model and this seemed key to him feeling like the career was right for him and that he had a good chance of success. This relationship showed clear cognitive overlap and some integration of identities, and although only this case seemed to support the idea that similarity enabled trust and identification to occur, this led to successful outcomes for Jack.

As much as this sounds attractive, and I think it’s the right call, I’m not really certain that may be once I get into it, it may be will kill me a little bit on the inside or something. Um, after the mentoring scheme I feel very definitely, no I’ve made the right call here.

Suhanna was a female BAME mentee who had almost no cognitive overlap with her mentor and was re-exploring her career identity having strongly identified with one of her parent’s careers and since rejected it. There was little bonding and no identification and only limited progress for her in terms of career direction. Both Jack and Suhanna gained a new view of the labour market ‘field’ and this resulted in a highly evolved understanding of the role and employability tactics for Jack and a huge opening up of career options for Suhanna. Neither raised their aspirations, but Jack ended up certain about his career identity and how to realise it and Suhanna realised that the answer to her career journey was to explore further career options and could see a way forward. It seems that Suhanna’s self-efficacy in her ability to navigate the career decision making process had increased, perhaps as a result of performance exposure (Bandura, 1977), in the form of exploring many new career options. She had another placement planned to explore a subsequent career option.

I wanted to aspire to be like my Dad, I want to be successful, I wanted to be in finance and the more I’ve grown up, the more I’ve realised I was, not naïve, but I just didn’t realise what else was out there. So I guess that’s what mentoring has made me realise.

A clearer career identity seemed to accelerate mentoring benefits, but progress can still be made if mentees are early in the career choice process and that building self-efficacy around applying the career decision making process is fruitful. Having mentor/mentee common ground helps and that with a well formed mentee career identity that common ground can include career interests. Cognitive overlap seemed to enable identification and comparisons between the mentee and the mentor such that the mentee saw their future self in the mentor’s current self via ‘symbolic modelling’ (Bandura, 1977). However: firstly, that cognitive overlap did not seem to need to be based on demographics. Interestingly Jack and his mentor were very different demographically but had very similar career interests, academic background, personality and work ethic. Secondly, this presented a paradox in that for mentoring outcomes to truly accelerate and reach fruition, students seemed to need better-formed career identities, something which mentoring ideally should help to achieve, but that for those with limited career identities at the outset, building self-efficacy in the career decision making process would help them move forward. Those with poorly formed professional career identities, logically, would be those who have had least exposure to professional graduate roles through their families, friends and communities, making mentoring vital for social mobility.

Several recommendations are made as a result of this research:

•            Matching processes should focus on multi-facetted mentor/mentee cognitive overlap.

•            Mentors should know how well-formed their mentee’s career identities are and encourage mentees to apply the career decision making process and reflect to build self efficacy in it.

•            Mentors and mentees need training and exercises to reflect on common ground, discuss differences and recognise the importance of relationship quality on career mentoring.

•            Mentors should provide mentee’s with mastery experiences as per Bandura’s self-efficacy concept, including providing experiences, if possible, occupational information, vicarious insights into job roles and reassurance as well as honest reflection about a mentee’s emotional reactions to what they learn and the process. This will broaden mentee horizons, deepen knowledge from new vantage points previously unavailable to them plus support about how they feel about it.

•            Scheme organisers need to encourage mentors and mentees to invest in the relationship.

•            Stakeholders need to better understand mentoring processes and how to support them.

To conclude, what originated as a study of career aspiration, evolved into a study of how career mentoring ensures mentees create, develop certainty around and ultimately secure their career aspirations and how schemes can support this to improve graduate outcomes. Aspects of the mechanisms of recognition and identification, habitus and field and self-efficacy all seemed at play.

 

[1] ‘Field’ is a place where agents are based with their positions of power dependent upon the interaction between; the rules of the field, the habitus of the agent and the capital (social, cultural, symbolic) of the agent.

[2] ‘Habitus’ is a repeated set of behaviours, assumptions and judgements that have developed over time due to family socialisation and that particular position in ‘the field’ and scaffolds decisions as a loose framework (Bourdieu, 1990)

 

References

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Bouquillon, E. A., Sosik, J. J., & Lee, D. (2005). It’s only a phase: examining trust, identification and mentoring functions received across the mentoring phases. Mentoring and Tutoring Partnership Learning, (13): 1-20.

Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic of Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Dacre-Pool, L., & Sewell, P. (2007). The key to employability: developing a practical model of graduate employability. . Education and Training, 49(4):277-289.

Kram, K. (1983). Mentoring at work: Developmental relationships in organizational life. Academy of Management Journal, (26): 608-625.

Meijers, F., & Lengelle, R. (2012). Narratives at work: the development of career identity. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 1-20.

Ragins, B. R. (1997). Diversified mentoring relationships in organizations: a power perspective. Academy of Management Review, 22(2): 482-521.

Tomlinson, M. (2017). Forms of graduate capital and their relationship to employability. Education and Training, 59(4): 338-352.

 

Bi Visibility Day

In 1998, Michael Page designed the Bi Pride Flag to increase the visibility of bisexuals within the LGBT community and within society as a whole. In a BiFlag.com blog, Page discusses the symbolism of the components of this flag:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).

The key to understanding the symbolism in the Bi Pride Flag is to know that the purple pixels of color blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue, just as in the ‘real world’ where most bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities.”

 

In the above quote, Page discusses how bi individuals are often invisible within various communities and this has been termed ‘bi invisibility’. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that bi individuals are visible and supported within our society.

 

Bi visibility

In relation to bi visibility, from 1999, Bi Visibility Day has been celebrated annually on the 23rd of September. There are various events held across the UK (as well as internationally) to encourage and promote bi visibility. This day also highlights biphobia which is the fear or dislike of someone who identifies as bi.

When considering biphobia, Stonewall, the largest LGBT charity in Europe, state that bi individuals suffer from dual prejudice. This is from within the LGBT community and outside of it. This prejudice can lead to mental health problems and risk-taking behaviours. Therefore, the aim of Bi Visibility Day is a reminder that we need to address biphobia whenever and wherever we see it.

Bi visibility in the workplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers Report 2020 found that only 27% of bi respondents were comfortable being out to all colleagues. Furthermore, the same report identified that only 18% of bi people could identify a bi role model in their workplace. In summary, this report highlights the need for bi individuals to feel more comfortable with bringing their authentic selves to work as well as having identifiable bi role models in the workplace.

 

In the final section of this article, our Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Allán Laville and RUSU Diversity Officer, Rachel Wates, share their personal experiences.

Experiences of Dr Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion:

‘When we talk about biphobia, we need to remember the marginalisation that bi individuals experience both within and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community – most commonly, in the form of microaggressions.

In the past, I have been on the receiving end of bi microaggressions such as ‘you just haven’t made your mind up yet’, and ‘are you more likely to cheat on your partner because you’re bi?’. These microaggressions aim to invalidate the identity of bi individuals as well as making inappropriate judgements.

In order to raise awareness, Rachel Wates, RUSU Diversity Officer, and I will be creating bi inclusion training sessions for staff and students for 2021. If you have any ideas on what you would to see included in this session, please do get in touch.’

 

Experiences of Rachel Wates, RUSU Diversity Officer:

‘My name is Rachel Wates and I am your RUSU Diversity Officer for this year. One part of my campaign is to host events and raise awareness on bi visibility. My reason for starting this campaign was mainly drawn from personal experience. I only came out at university right at the end of my 4-year course at the age of 22. I think at this age most university students are aware and comfortable with their sexual identity. (If you’re reading this and you’re still unsure of what you define yourself as then don’t worry – there is no rush). I am not exaggerating when I say I struggled to find what label I would adhere to amongst the spectrum of sexual orientations. Pansexual…queer…questioning… bisexual. Yes, bisexual.  Bisexuality just seemed to fit for me, and I started feeling comfortable saying it out loud. When I came out my family and friends were happy for me… and I have a feeling some of them may have even known before I did! This was a really positive experience as I was so happy to have people within close proximity who understood all of me.

Unfortunately, this took a turn when I had won my FTO Election. Someone had posted on the anonymous forum ReadingFess that they thought I was just pretending to come out as bisexual for “diversity points” and that it was “convenient she just happened to come out right before elections”. They also stated, “as an LGBT member they had been thinking about this for a while”.

This greatly upset me at the time. I remember thinking if I had known that the reaction of me coming out would have been negative, then in hindsight I think I would have just stayed in the closet. I didn’t have any proof that I was bisexual, all I had was the emotions and feelings I had in my heart and brain. I felt invalidated and hurt. Especially as though maybe some of this hate had been written from an LGBT+ member themselves. I honestly felt lost. A part of me wished I had never said anything at all.

However, I soon realised after that I was not the only one who had experienced this. Now I know this wasn’t just someone being mean to me online – this was a type of discrimination known as bi erasure. had mentioned this multiple time in my FTO Campaign, however, ironically, I had never experienced it until I had actually won. Bi-erasure or bisexual erasure is the tendency for societies to ignore, remove, falsify or reexplain evidence of bisexuality. I learnt from a committee member of the LGBT+ society that there is a term called “straight-presenting” meaning that you are typically seen in heterosexual relationships, however this doesn’t invalidate your bisexuality.

The Stonewall School Report 2017 found that 75% of LGBT+ pupils have never learnt about or discussed bisexuality in schools and that LGBT+ pupils from their teachers at school and even their friends would just refer to them as gay or lesbian.

This is why I am hoping to start in this training and start on my Bisexual Visibility Week and bisexual training.  I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through and I am hoping that we can all work together collectively as staff and the student body to make everyone feel validated regardless of orientation. I believe that we can all work together as a community to help students know bisexuality is real, we cannot let internet bullies win and that no staff or student is alone.

Thank you for reading about my experience. If you wish to email me my email is diversityofficer@rusu.co.uk  or come say hi to me if you see me on campus.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making space: Connecting BAME students in the Department of English Literature

In this post, Part 3 students (and now 2020 graduates!) Georgia Courtney-Cox and Yinka Olaniyan and Lecturer Dr Nicola Abram discuss the BAME English Literature students’ network launched in 2019/20.

Photo of 2020 graduate Georgia Courtney-Cox, supplied by subject

Photo of 2020 graduate Yinka Olaniyan, supplied by subject

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yinka: The BAME student network was created for English Literature students to discuss their university experiences as BAME students. It was founded by Georgia Courtney-Cox, Nicola Abram and myself to act as a safe space for BAME students, who are often few and far between in the English department. For example, in 2018, only 14.4% of UK/EU entrants to undergraduate English Literature programmes identified as BAME, compared to 25% across the University as a whole.

Nicola: Georgia and Yinka were among seven students who participated in a project in 2018/19 which sought to explore the experiences of BAME students in the School of Literature and Languages. Project participants took photographs illustrating aspects of university life, which we discussed in our group and then shared publicly in a Library exhibition and online. For me, what stood out in these images was the dialogue between cultural and ethnic identity (for example, black British, or British Asian) and institutional and disciplinary identity (that is, being a student of a certain subject at the University of Reading). Participants wanted to be able to identify themselves – and be seen by others – as both. So, with some funding from the UoR Diversity & Inclusion fund and the Teaching & Learning Dean, Georgia, Yinka and I designed a schedule of events for 2019/20 where black, Asian, and ‘minority’ ethnic students of English Literature could get together, resourcing each other and building a supportive community.

Georgia: During the year I advertised the BAME network on the UoR ‘Student Life’ blog.

Yinka: Across the academic year, we have had various sessions and speakers. These have ranged from myself and Georgia facilitating informal discussions whilst we ate pizza, to Creative Writing lecturer Shelley Harris discussing how we can use our experiences to benefit our academic work. The Autumn Term session with three University of Reading graduates was a particularly encouraging experience for me. It was the first term of my final year at university and I was rather unsure of what lay ahead. The pressure of my dissertation and the impending uncertainty of graduation loomed over me. The graduates, however, reassured me that it was okay to feel overwhelmed about my dissertation and the fear of the unknown. After hearing about the various routes the graduates went down after university, I realised that my life did not have to follow a linear pattern. This allowed me to let go of anxiety about the future and focus on the present. It was because of this session that I feel like I got the most out of my final year.

Georgia: The Autumn Term graduate talks showed me that studying English Literature can provide transferable skills after university. The idea of life after university has always been a daunting thought at the back of my mind however after speaking to the graduates I felt reassured that I could enter the job market confident in my skills.

Yinka: My favourite session of the year was with Shirley Anstis, a local author and counsellor. In her interactive workshop, we used writing therapy to celebrate our successes since A-Levels. No one was required to read their writing out, so it was very much a personal exercise. We also did a visualisation activity of what we wanted our ideal future to look like. The exercise allowed me to reframe my goals and work out what truly mattered to me. Sessions like these every few weeks gave students a small period of calm in what is usually a hectic university schedule. It was also great to have BAME English Literature students from other years attend. We exchanged advice about modules we had taken and navigating university life as a BAME student generally. It was great to be able to relax and talk to other students about our oftentimes shared experiences.

Georgia: I noticed how impactful the network had become during the teaching strikes. Many students who attended the sessions would join because they were already on campus. I had anticipated that because there were fewer contact hours during the strikes not many students would attend, however, I was surprised that students still attended the session because they wanted to converse. We talked about staying motivated, dealing with anxieties within and outside of university, and formulated strategies to meet upcoming deadlines. Having an open discussion for 40 minutes helped me to de-stress. The time flew by and it made a massive difference to the rest of my day.

Nicola: As a member of staff sitting in on all but the student-led discussion sessions, I’ve learned so much this year. I’ve heard what a lonely and alienating experience it can be finding yourself the only person of colour in a classroom, and how frustrating it is when the curriculum doesn’t acknowledge the contributions of people like you. I’ve also seen how resourceful students have been in making a place for themselves at University, and their resilience in staying true to themselves despite various institutional and peer pressures. In our final, reflective session it was incredibly moving to see and celebrate how much the network participants have achieved this year, both academically and personally. Staff at the University have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the ways in which our systems – including our teaching methods and curricula – centre some students at the expense of others, and to make a change. I will be working with colleagues in the Department of English Literature and more widely to feed this forward.

Yinka: Being part of the BAME network has helped me in a multitude of ways. When I first started university, I felt that there were not many people I could relate to or who could relate to me. By the end of it, there is a network of people with whom I can discuss anything. The network has made me feel more comfortable about who I am and how I express myself to non-BAME students. I am now confident enough to speak about my experiences and have done so at various talks alongside Georgia, including a School of Literature and Languages meeting in November 2019 and a University-wide event in January 2020. It has been amazing to be part of such a great network and I would highly encourage anyone who has thought of attending to come along when future sessions are advertised. You can just drop into sessions that suit you – you don’t have to attend every session. Whether you would like to speak up or just listen in, the network is for everyone who wants to hear and reflect on the experiences of BAME students. The student-led sessions will be reserved for students of colour, but sessions led by UoR staff or with external speakers will be open to all students. BAME students have often been ignored in academic settings, but the network has allowed me and others to have a voice. My advice would be to use the BAME network as an empowering tool, to define your place at university.

 

Photo of Lecturer in Literatures in English, Dr Nicola Abram, taken by Laura Bennetto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAME network end of year poster

Typographic representation of BAME students’ English Literature meet-up 2019/20, designed by Georgia Courtney-Cox