Statement on behalf of The Chemistry Department and ChemSoc
On the 25 May 2020, the tragic death of George Floyd shocked and angered the world. As a community, we would like to extend our deepest sympathies and solidarity to everyone who has been impacted by this awful event. It has, appropriately, triggered a great deal of thinking about and re-examination of behaviours and values in institutions around the world, including ours. As part of that, departments across the university have been planning their responses. We acknowledge that it has taken us some time to release this statement; we wanted to have a considered action plan in place to show that we are listening and are actively willing to change. This plan builds on the work that has already taken place in the department over the last year, from promoting the work of academics from minority communities to examining attainment gaps for students from different backgrounds.
We deplore the racially discriminatory actions of institutions that are supposed to keep us safe; we condemn all racist behaviour and confirm that there is no room for racism within our community, which exists for the purposes of education, research and scholarship – activities that should be equally accessible to, and for the benefit of, everyone. We fully affirm that we as a Department and a University should ‘acknowledge, respect and celebrate differences and commonalities’ – as stated by the Black Lives Matter movement and in agreement with the University's existing values, and that this should apply to all members of our community from any background.
To this end, we need to challenge both our unconscious and conscious biases. We wish to reassure the student community that we will not tolerate racism and are actively committed to being anti-racist as a department. Finding effective ways to do this and make a real difference to the experience of Black students – and other students of colour – in our community may be difficult: but the imperative to do this based on recent events and the BLM movement is completely clear. So we want you to know that the pace of change in the department will accelerate.
Within the next few weeks the chemistry department shall be implementing the following:
- A complaints system for the reporting of racism and racist behaviour within the chemistry department and ChemSoc, and joining other societies in lobbying for the University to do the same.
- Establishing a ‘Student Attainment and Experience’ committee, aimed at further understanding and addressing the attainment gap of Black students, and some other students of colour; and the challenges faced by Black individuals within our community and the department, and making recommendations for how to improve students’ experience.
- Starting a Black student network to create a sense of belonging and inclusion within the chemistry department.
- Establishing a web page to highlight race-based diversity issues in the department, the actions being taken, and provide links to educational resources.
Alongside these commitments, ChemSoc will also be supporting the department in its work towards the following goals within the next academic year and beyond:
- Increasing Black representation at all levels within the department (UG, PG, Staff).
- Refusal to tolerate racism within the department in order to properly hold people accountable for their actions.
- Engagement with the university's 'Decolonise Project', in a collaboration with Chemistry staff and students, to expand our teaching beyond 'White and western': for example diversifying the range of scientists represented in our teaching, questioning our biases, and reviewing who and what we place at the centre of scientific knowledge creation.
- Mandating staff and students to participate in training about, and increase their awareness of, issues that will improve the experience of students from all minorities, such as ‘active by-standing and ‘anti-racism’ and ‘anti-oppression’.
As individuals, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and listen to our Black peers. We all must strive to form a more inclusive community where nobody feels that they don’t belong. If you wish to educate yourself further on this topic, we have included links to resources that will be helpful below. We have also included the BLM carrds to direct individuals to relevant petitions, donation pages and further resources.
We hope this statement has been able to provide some reassurance to our Black students and colleagues on where we stand on this issue. We wish to create the best possible community of learning and scholarship for all of our students and will appreciate your help and feedback to make that happen, and although we know we will not always be perfect, we are not going to shy away from any complex topics or criticism. We will listen, we will learn, and we will take action.
- Ally McLoughlin - ChemSoc President 2020/21
- Louis Ammon - ChemSoc Postgraduate Representative 2020/21
- Mike Ward - Head of Department of Chemistry