Black Lives Matter: De Montfort University open letter to our staff and student community

 Resized BLM Statement (2)

The images of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police officers have sparked a global outpouring of grief and anger. Many individuals and organisations have made declarations against racism over the last few days, condemned the horror and brutality of the situation in the USA and have declared that Black Lives Matter.

Over the last few days, staff and students have asked why they have not seen a similar statement come from DMU. They have asked does our university not stand against racism? Do we not condemn the horrors the world is witnessing?

We would like to apologise for not issuing this open letter as quickly as our staff and student community would have liked and acknowledge that many of you felt this was a betrayal.

DMU did not immediately post a statement because we felt this situation and our response deserved a considered, reflective and accountable action. Quite rightly, a significant number of people have been in touch this week to ask us why we have not released a statement. Please be assured, we have heard your voices and we hope our community will understand this delay was based on our desire to be authentic and not present a virtue-signalling statement.

This letter is a declaration of our position and is something we wanted to share directly with our university community, as we recommit to our work on Decolonising DMU.

To be clear, DMU absolutely stands against racism and supports the values and ethos of Black Lives Matter. We continue to work towards embodying these values and this ethos.

We unequivocally condemn the brutal killing of George Floyd as yet another example of police violence and brutality.

However, we also recognise that this specific incident is a repetition of many similar occurrences both in the USA and much closer to home in the UK. Empirical evidence identifies the outcomes of blatant and covert racism are exhibited on a daily basis in our criminal justice system, education system, employment environments, the health and welfare systems and within government policy and actions.

To stand against racism means we stand for anti-racism and DMU cannot condemn any individual or organisation without looking in the mirror and critiquing and challenging ourselves.

To stand against racism and for anti-racism we have to be strong enough to challenge institutional racism and continue to look at our own actions and behaviours. 

We must repeatedly ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What does our senior and governing body representation look like?
  • What do our staff demographics look like?
  • What do our professors look like?
  • What and who does our curriculum represent?
  • What outcomes do our black students get?
  • Who feels like they belong - or don’t belong - on our campus?
  • What is the lived experience of our black staff and students at DMU?

So, what are we doing about all of this?

To truly be anti-racist is to look in that mirror and be able to say that we are:

  • Continuing to hold ourselves and our teaching and learning to account… for its content, its relevance to our student body and its lack of providing a space and place for our black students and staff to feel they belong
  • Rebalancing the diversity of our senior teams and staff promotions to better reflect our student and staff community
  • Building a community of staff and students who feel able to share their experiences of racism and know they will receive support, and believe that racism will be challenged.

We are putting that mirror up and examining our own behaviours.  We are doing so in a way that recognises that this is a historical and material struggle, and that learning together through this process is necessary.

However, we are proud to say that we are genuinely working on our internal infrastructure, our practices and our behaviours to become an anti-racist university.  

We have liaised with our students’ union and support the information, guidance and opportunities they have been sharing with our student body.

We are on a journey which will require a lot of conversations, some of which will be uncomfortable and challenging for ALL people across the university.

But we ask our DMU community to join us on this journey in challenging racism and helping us to hold our institution and ourselves to account.

Posted on Friday 5 June 2020

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