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September 04, 2018

Working against racism – Committing to change at Warwick


The following is a joint blog written by Stuart Croft and Larissa Kennedy, SU Education Officer

In the work on Warwick’s new strategy, we have committed ourselves to being an exceptional university. Of course, that means exceptional in our research and in our education, as that is the core of any Higher Education institution. But that alone is not enough. We must be exceptional in a number of areas - and one of the most important has to be how we work and live together.

Over the past few years, universities in the United Kingdom have seen a number of racist incidents. Unfortunately, Warwick has not been an exception. However, while we must show zero tolerance to racism, we must also understand more subtle measures of exclusion - often unconscious in nature - and talk openly about how to address them so that we become an institution where intercultural experiences are discussed, talked about, shared, and celebrated.

The starting point though, has to be confronting racism. We initially addressed this in the light of a very distressing incident a while back, and now want to share our work in this area so far.

We have begun a debate at Warwick to try to understand much, much more about the barriers that prevent inclusivity, and what steps each and every one of us can take to address these. Last year, we brought together a group of staff and students to explore what instances of racism BAME members of our community were experiencing. This exploration shows us that it is not solely overt racist slurs that are the issue – though, clearly, such comments must be called out and dealt with effectively.

However, we also see systemic, institutionalised and covert issues – from an example of the study options open to students (which can often be based on a historic, white narrative) and the challenges some staff and students face in challenging the established curriculum, to basic manners of learning individuals’ names and preferred forms of address. The effect can be to leave individuals feeling isolated, not supported, disillusioned and without a clear pathway to get a resolution. To compound this, we have staff who do not feel confident in identifying where colleagues and students need help, as well as individuals feeling worn down by a pattern of actions, comments and language that are invisible to others.

We are now seeing excellent examples of positive initiatives across the University – for example, intercultural training for students developed by the Centre for Applied Linguistics (CAL) and International Student Office is now being rolled out to train staff, while the ‘Colonial hangover’ widening participation programme run through the department of Politics and International Studies (PAIS) is working with a number of schools to decolonise the curricula. These initiatives should be celebrated and embraced for their thoughtfulness and empathy.

We proactively support student communities in getting their voice heard on such matters. The recent Warwick Speak Out campaign - a joint venture between the SU and Warwick Anti-Racism Society - created an online reporting tool for racist incidents, so that we now have a better understanding of the issues facing our students. The Hidden Histories Alternative Lecture Series also gives a platform to academic narratives and discourses which are often neglected or even deliberately erased from mainstream curricula. For those interested in being involved with this type of work, elections for the SU’s Liberation & Diversity Exec are coming up in October.

Though there is still much to be done, these examples show the value of the debate: using open and honest dialogue across the University to share experiences, discuss issues and find better ways of engaging with each other – all the while providing the world-class educational experience we aspire to. To that end, we want to share with you a poem from Faith Denya, a student involved in the Colonial Hangover project:

Teach me your heroes

Your heroes, that ordered the enslavement of my heroes,
Your heroes that massacred the mothers and fathers of my heroes,
Your heroes that fought and tortured and created a system to dehumanize, ostracize and spread lies.
You want to teach me your history?
The one that wiped out my history? Brainwashed and made me forget my ancestry - all in the name of colony.
The history that asks no questions and never mentions the pain, blood and tears of those you captured to create your history.
Instead of slaves in chains, we became slaves to ignorance and I refuse to let that be my history.

Faith Denya

sc_sig.jpgLarissa Kennedy signature




Stuart and Larissa Kennedy


June 19, 2017

Standing together

The UK is going through terrible times at the moment. This morning, we held a minute's silence for the horror of those lost in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen terrorist attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, and now on worshippers at Finsbury Park Mosque. All these actions are repellent; they seek to divide us.

Many of these recent attacks sought to kill randomly. The attack at Finsbury Park sought to kill specifically - a deliberate attack on the Islamic community, in the Holy Month.


I want to register my solidarity with those affected in London and Manchester, and members of Muslim communities everywhere. For our own community here at Warwick: let's stand together.

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Warwick staff and students can access support and guidance from Wellbeing Support Services


May 15, 2017

Make sure your voice is heard – register to vote by 22 May

Register to vote

SU Democracy and Development officerWith Becky Gittins, Warwick SU Democracy & Development Officer, I’m sharing a call to action to students, at my University, Warwick, and across the UK: register to vote by Monday 22 May to make your voice heard in the General Election.

Students occupy what can often be a precarious position in politics. Despite falling under the same generic label of 'student', this is an extremely diverse group made up of many demographics, nationalities, motivations and desires. Students do not always choose the same route to making their voices heard, nor do they always co-ordinate efforts. Being at University for a fixed period of time means they are also a transient population in the region or city where they’re studying. There are also many misconceptions around who is eligible to vote, and frequent misunderstandings around voter registration processes. There is a wealth of guidance online, but engaging in elections, and voting itself, is not an obvious, straightforward experience for many members of this community. When you consider that 75% of 18-24 year-olds voted to remain in the EU, there could well be feeling within this generation that voting also doesn’t actually get you what you want, or at least that voting doesn’t impact what happens in the end.

But. This generation can have impact. And that is turnout. Not only do students represent a significant proportion of local constituencies, but an increase of just 30% in the 18-24 vote could be enough to influence the entire General Election. If our 18-24 year olds use their vote, they become a priority for politicians and, indeed, a key interest group in national decision-making. This generation can play an active role in the decisions that they care about and that affect them.

At Warwick, the University and Students’ Union share a belief in the power of students to be active participants in our democracy, and key players in the decision-making processes of our communities, our region and our country. From the new academic year, we will enable our eligible students to register to vote as part of their University enrolment process. This will overcome the impact of changes to Individual Voter Registration made in 2014 which wiped thousands of students off the electoral register overnight. It will also make it easier, quicker, simpler to register to vote. We genuinely hope this step will help encourage our students to use their vote.

Until then, students need to register to vote the old-fashioned way. Please do. The decisions taken this June will have far-reaching implications. Our student community has the power and knowledge to influence decisions and should play its part in our future. The biggest threat to the strength of that generation is not realising the power it has in the first place.

For the upcoming General Election on 8 June, the deadline to register to vote is Monday 22 May. Please do.

Best wishes

Becky and Stuart

More information on how to register and eligibility can be found on MyWarwick


December 16, 2016

Update regarding the recent occupation

We have reached agreement to bring a peaceful conclusion to the student occupation that has been taking place at the University of Warwick since 2 December 2016. Here is my letter to the protesters following engagement between the University, the Students’ Union and the protestors to reach this conclusion.

I am writing to confirm Warwick’s position on the issues on which you sought to mount a protest through your occupation of the Slate since 2 December 2016. I hope to continue to engage with you through the Students’ Union in order to further progress resolution to the issues we have discussed with you. As we reach a point in our engagement at which you agree to bring a peaceful conclusion to your occupation, I am happy to publish this letter online as a statement of our agreed intentions.

Teaching Excellence Framework and Higher Education and Research Bill

You have emphasised your opposition to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). This is in line with the campaign in 2015/16 led by Warwick Students’ Union sabbatical officers and the University Assembly motion opposing HE reform.

I recognise that your opposition to the TEF does not arise from disagreement with the fundamental proposition that universities should provide high quality teaching. Indeed, we all agree with that principle. It is because the proposed metrics will not measure that. TEF will not do what it says on the tin; it will not measure teaching excellence. However, the University of Warwick, along with most other UK higher education institutions, will submit to TEF. This is because of the government’s proposal that the TEF might be used to decide which universities would be able to recruit international students. Failure to make a submission to the TEF represents an existential threat to the diverse and global contribution that our international students make to the very essence of our university. At Warwick, we do not believe that the two should be linked.

But TEF is not the only problem facing higher education. The Higher Education and Research Bill signals a far more significant threat. Key challenges within the Bill include who will be granted degree awarding powers and on what basis, and very real questions about the autonomy of universities.

This Bill has just started its progress through the House of Lords. In the initial debate, over 60 Lords argued against elements of the Bill. There is, I hope, the very real prospect of significant changes. I am currently meeting with key influencers and decision-makers to seek to secure some of those changes, as are many others. I am willing to publish a press release setting out my concerns on HE reform and increasing marketization, which will also reflect the concerns articulated by a wide range of staff and students to make public these views. Between now and January, as the Bill goes through its parliamentary stages, is a critical time for us all to focus on the Bill itself.

Hourly-paid staff

I recognise the genuine concern expressed regarding status of our hourly-paid teaching staff. We have been working to standardise the terms and conditions of hourly-paid teachers to ensure that they are treated consistently and fairly across departments. Our sessional teaching project has involved input from hourly-paid staff and from the Students’ Union Postgraduate Sabbatical Officer. We are also exploring models that have been adopted elsewhere for possible adoption at Warwick. We recognise there is more to do.

In order to ensure that the concerns of our hourly-paid teaching staff are most effectively heard I am happy to commit to organising a meeting with the Trades Unions during January to discuss formal TU recognition agreements for these staff. I hope that this will provide a formal mechanism to consider the specific issues that have been highlighted in relation to casualisation. I have also agreed to meet with members of Warwick Anti-Casualisation (WAC) in January to begin a process of dialogue on their concerns, which will involve the Students’ Union as well as the University and College Union (UCU) once the recognition agreement is in place.

December 2014

In December 2014, we saw incidents on campus, most notably those at Senate House on 3 December, where there were accusations, and evidence, of intimidation and violence inflicted on members of our community. There were subsequent court cases, and an examination by the Independent Police Complaints Commission which is still not fully resolved. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on those processes, but what I do want to comment on is the reaction of the University at that time.

I know that the formal statement issued by the University on 4 December caused enormous upset across our community, because it placed blame on one side of the dispute. There was ample evidence on social media of significant distress and concern amongst our students and staff, which continues to contribute to further demonstrations on our campus.

These events, and the University's initial reaction to them, caused significant shock. I do know that. I was on University business in Singapore at the time and was profoundly dismayed by the messages and reports I saw. The distress suffered by our community had a very real impact on me.

Given all this, as Vice-Chancellor, reflecting on those dark days, I want to express two points. First, I very deeply regret the violence that we witnessed and the great upset amongst the students and staff involved, and the community beyond. I never want to be in a situation again in which CS spray or a tazer is deployed on our campus. Second, I regret that in the University's communications that immediately followed what took place, the principle of neutrality fundamental to our University community was evidently broken.

We are now committed to removing the injunction put in place after the events of December 2014. In closing this letter I do hear the call for increased urgency for the resolution of these matters. I am committed to continuing to pursue deeper engagement and ongoing dialogue between the University, Students' Union and the breadth of our student body. There are lessons to learn, and I hope that we are collectively starting to do that.

Yours sincerely

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Stuart Croft


September 2020

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