In this episode I talk to Tinashe Verhaeghe, who founded the BME Network at the University of Exeter. We discuss activisim, advocacy, emotional labour, freedom of speech - and fundamentally what it is like to be black in HE. If you are interested in black experiences of HE, you might want to listen to the previous epsiode Being a BAME Researcher with Victoria Omotoso.
If you are interested in learning more about structural inequalities in HE, you may find the AdvanceHE Equality in higher education: statistical report 2019 useful.
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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Hello and welcome, R, D And The Inbetweens, I'm your host, Kelly Preece,
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and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.
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Hi, everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of R, D and the In Betweens.
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It's Kelly Preece here. And I'm delighted to be bringing you a follow up episode to my discussion about being a BAME researcher in higher education.
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So following the events in America over the summer,
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I actually made the second episode of this podcast as a special episode where I wanted to talk to one of our BAME researchers about the
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reality of higher education for someone that is black and therefore working in a structurally and institutionally racist environment.
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I'm really pleased today to be able to follow up that conversation by talking to one of my wonderful colleagues, Tina,
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who started the BME network at the University of Exeter and is playing a crucial role in fighting structural racism at our university and beyond,
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prioritising and amplifying the voice of Black and BAME staff, students, researchers and is generally being a role model, I think,
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for all of us in how we can challenge power structures and work to make our community a better and more inclusive place.
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So, like with my episode with Victoria, I'm going to do minimal to no editing of this conversation.
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So it's another longer episode.
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But I think it's important that I don't assert my white privilege and perspective onto this conversation and that I let Tinas words and.
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Do the fantastic work that they and Tina do.
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So my name is Tinashe Verhaeghe and I am currently the college EDI manager for for the College of Social Sciences at the University of Exeter.
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And I'm also a project manager on a GCRF if funded project called Imagining Futures, which is so cool.
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I am one of the founders of the BME network and the current chair of the BME network as well.
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And I run a number of really cool initiatives around race in higher education at the University of Exeter.
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Brilliant. So the BME network is relatively new
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The university, if I'm remembering my timeline's right, is at two years old.
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Yep, exactly. We started last year, 2019, January.
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So. Can you tell me a little bit about about how the network got started on?
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And I guess the why from your perspective? Hopefully it would seem relatively straightforward about why.
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So I've worked at the university. I studied at the university, first of all.
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And I was a student in the business school. And I've worked there since I graduated.
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So that's that would have been since 2011. And it was it was always kind of uneventful, really,
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until in 2018 I had a series of personal experiences around that, you know, around race and racism at university.
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And I realised that the debilitating nature of those experiences was in the fact that I just had no one to talk to about it.
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No one who understood. No one who could kind of, you know, have that reaction of they said what or or laugh about it together.
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You know, it was just lonely and it was crushing. And I realised that I've got I've got such a strong support system anyway.
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In terms of family and friends. But I think that, you know,
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the lacking was having another black woman or another woman of colour or a person of colour to talk to about specific things.
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That was what I didn't have at the time. And I know, as I was saying, I was aware of the fact that I have a strong support system.
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I've been at I've been in Exeter for so long and I think my heart broke for people who didn't have what I had.
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So people who had were going through these experiences that were alone,
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you know, if you're an international student, for example, your family's abroad.
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I was an international student, so I get it. I didn't go home for five years at one point.
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So I. I get it. And I just let you know this is it.
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Let's just fix this one thing. At least if I do anything,
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it's to fix this one thing where we have community and we can all come together and dissect these experiences and make a difference.
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So I start having conversations with people. And the network officially launched in January 2019.
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And certainly, from my perspective, as an ally this has just been going from strength to strength in terms of its.
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Voice and position in the university, and particularly in latter months, kind of.
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Really leading the way.
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For the university start having some really important conversations about race and black attainment and the black attainment gap, amongst other things.
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Yeah, I was quite interested by what you said about kind of everything kind of being pootling along with everything.
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Fine. And then you had a couple of instances in 2018 that were really challenging.
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We've we've talked before, and I think one of the things that really has been much more part of the conversation of
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late has been about the about structural racism and the ways in which our systems are.
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Inherently racist in the way that they're built and I wondered if you could talk a little bit about from your perspective,
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what the what those issues are in higher education, what we know, what aspects of the system are structurally racist.
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So looking back, one of the things that's that's kind of spurred on this awakening in me was a.
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Sighs I was trying to get a new job, and I just realised I had a realisation that I am capable,
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I'm competent and educated andI'm ambitious and I should progress my career and I'd apply for jobs and get interviews,
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but constantly be told you're completely, you know, completely appointable
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But and this isn't just, you know, one or two or five interviews. I might have gone for 15 interviews in one year and kept getting the same response.
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And that's when I realised that this environment seems to be happy when I'm at a certain level.
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But when I when I'm wanting to go up that step, it feels harder than it should be.
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And I think that's an example of how, um, structural racism manifests is in, you know, how difficult it is to progress for people of colour.
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And, you know, that's evidenced by how thin the number, the numbers get as you go up the organisation,
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the number of black professors we have or BAME professors, whatever it is,
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there is evidence that shows that there is that there's a barrier to progression.
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And we talk about, you know, the attainment gap and how and all of this goes to show that there's a problem.
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You know, there's a problem with that around the experience of students of colour,
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because evidentially they are likely to perform less than their white counterparts.
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And the only thing I can see, only difference I can see is the fact that they are you know, they're people of colour.
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And I know that it's a societal problem as well.
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But what can we do to challenge that and address that as the university?
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And I think Exeter has unique issues in that the city within is predominantly white.
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Devon is predominantly white. And, you know, even I know I've had I talk to students who told me and staff I you know,
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I've had members of staff told me that experiencing racism in the city is the norm.
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I'm lucky that this isn't the norm for me. If anyone ever expressed overt racism, I'd take note.
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I have experienced it in the city, but it's not at the stage where they call it the norm.
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But I've heard that when black students are in town at arts clubbing or whatever, it's the norm to have racist insults thrown at them.
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So, you know, Exeter, Devon, Cornwall, especially, you have that issue.
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And I think. Which is, I think, you know, looking at the evidence of the experiences of people of colour in Exeter.
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That is an issue. It's not even just about listening to people's stories. You can't deny it.
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I'd I'd almost say show me an area where.
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People of colour are don't seem to be on the back end of of being able to succeed or progress.
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I'd almost say. Let's look at it that way, it would be a shorter conversation.
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Yes, and I think it's the the thing you're saying about the local areas is really interesting for me.
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I grew up in this area and certainly my kind of when I went to university and I lived to you know, I lived out of Devon for 10, 15 years.
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And when I would describe multiculturalism in Devon, my sort of explanation was we don't have it.
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It hasn't gotten that yet.
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And certainly since I started working at at the University of Exeter and I've been meeting kind of research students when they start.
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You know, I've had a couple of BAME researchers say to me very early on kind of that, you know,
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they go into Exeter and it's it's not necessarily that they're talking about experiences of.
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Overt racism or racist remarks? Obviously, that does happen. But more the kind of being struck by how.
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Undiversified. And how overwhelmingly white.
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And then you kind of come up to this university on the Hill and it's slightly more diverse than the city that surrounds it.
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But not hugely. I'm.
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You know, I remember going to Birmingham once. It must have been Birmingham. And I'd never been and stepping off the station.
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I was like, am I still in England? Where am I? It's so it's so diverse.
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I didn't stick. I didn't stick out at all. I didn't. You know, like in Exeter
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you're walking down the street and you see people of colour, you. They just pop out at you because they're so few of us.
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You're like, I see you, you know. And you do that.
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The acknowledgement that says I see you. Many of us here today and in Birmingham, I remember just it was overwhelming.
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I'm like, I don't nod because there's just too many of you.
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I can't just be nodding at everyone to say hi. That's just how different it was.
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And I think that's when I realised I, I, I think that's when I realised that.
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How how different the situation here is. Does that does that make you behave differently?
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I mean, I appreciate for certain that it makes other people behave differently.
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But does it make you behave differently? Do you feel more comfortable? Do you feel more relaxed?
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I definitely felt more relaxed. I don't know. It's just it felt nice to not stick out.
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It felt nice to not feel like an awareness of I don't know what people who are around
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me think because so few of them would look like me and some of them might be racist.
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I guess that's my reality. You know, it is a reality that some of the people you walk past in town are thinking,
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I wish she'd go back where she came from without even knowing me. So I definitely felt relaxed.
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And I think that's something that, you know, as.
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White people, we don't. It's so far from our.
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Experience, this is something we don't think about. About that sense of.
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I didn't quite mean belonging, but comfort in your surroundings, because, you know, you're always surrounded by.
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People that look like you and you do blend in. Exactly.
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So you mentioned about there being a particular kind of particular issues, at Exeter and what I would like to get into that.
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But in terms of so you mentioned the issue of where Exter is located, being a kind of contributing factor.
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But what...we kind of recognise structural is structural racism is a.
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Global problem. And, you know, it's it's for sure.
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I mean, and we've got so much data to prove it a problem in higher education.
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What is it about? Exeter. That gives us a particular problem.
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I I think we've alwaysk, Exeter is, kind of, you know, this elite university, we're very it's very middle class.
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It's very. I've heard it referred to historically as the green welly attracting the green welly brigades.
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And, you know, I'm I think I recognise that I have privilege and that, you know, my parents worked so hard to be able to give me the best education.
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And there's an extent to which I can come into this environment.
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And I know how to be a black woman in this environment.
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I know how to sound like I fit in. And all of that.
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But there is something about being being from that kind of middle class background, especially like middle class white.
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That means that you don't. You might you're less likely maybe to understand what it's like to be unheard.
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And I do think that the combination of, you know, being having this academic community that is very middle class,
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white in themselves and then the student body that is similar,
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but not not complete 100 percent like I'm not but I'm saying to an extent,
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just has led to the conversation around the experiences of minority communities or marginalised communities being stinted.
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Yeah. And the progression and development of a more inclusive community being affected by that.
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And I actually also think that we compartmentalise so as people we've learnt that what I discuss with my
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friends outside of work or outside of the university is very different to what I discuss when I'm in work.
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So I might actually be an activist outside of work, but I'm not bringing that into my office and not bringing that into my classroom.
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And again, there's reasons behind that, you know. What what do we feel like?
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There's repercussions for speaking out. And I think historically there probably have been because of where the conversation has been at the time.
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But that also is another reason that I'd say the conversation is stinted
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But I mean, it's good to see that this change around that as well on that kind of theme about about kind of conversations about race.
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One of the things that I was interested to talk about was and this notion of academic freedom of speech.
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There've been several instances nationwide, but I'm thinking of a couple in particular at
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Exeter, where comments have been made about trans people and also about
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BAME people are, and in particular in recent months about colonialism
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that have been. Viewed as problematic, but have been defended.
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Perhaps not defended, but dismissed on the basis of. Well, we have academic freedom of speech and we have a right to be critical,
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and that's our job and that's what we do as an institution, even if what's being said is.
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Quite obviously problematic to some of us. And.
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And I wondered what you will what your thoughts were about that, about this nation of academic freedom of speech.
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Yeah, no, I don't come at this from an academic background cause I'm not an academic.
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It's from what I've seen and what I understand today.
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I have an appreciation for academic freedom of speech and what it allows people to explore and what it could do for future generations.
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I think for me, it's a problem when it seems to allow people to behave in a way that lacks integrity, when it allows people to.
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I don't know. Not not act out of good character or.
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Yeah, it just removes common decency. Cause there's a you know, when when we're talking about these issues,
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I don't talk about racism out of kind of a ideology and it's academic research or whatever.
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I talk about it from wanting a better experience, a better lived experience for people.
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And if and if someone is more if someone's finding that their academic freedom of speech is more important
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than actually listening to what the individual is saying about the about how they're being oppressed.
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Yeah. Then what's what are you going to do with that
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I just I feel like, you know, when people when those kinds of people exist and they can all go about doing their life
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until something hopefully makes them see that there are people behind these stories.
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And hopefully they'll come out from behind the academic freedom of speech banner that they're able to hide behind.
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And I think part for me as sort of, you know, an academic and a researcher,
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that is there's something in there about hiding behind the objectivity of research that is kind of fantasy that we have that,
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you know, research is objective. We're not looking at it. You know, our personal experiences and our viewpoints and the lived experience.
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People don't come into it. We're just looking at this. We're stepping back and we're looking at it objectively as if that's in any way possible.
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And actually, you know, there were a lot of research traditions that in sort of the past couple of decades that have moved beyond that and said,
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well, a, you can't do that if it involves human beings, it's inherently subjective and biased.
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What would that be? Why would we want to in that way? Why would we want to look at experiences of race and colonialism objectively?
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Because they aren't objective. They're subjective.
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And I'm you're saying that we're talking about people's lived experience or why would we want to talk about it in a way that's disconnected from that?
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Exactly. That's so true. And on an academic level, it's it's one of my frustrations on an on a purely academic level.
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It makes no sense to me because of that, let alone the kind of more kind of moral kind of,
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you know, kind common decency of angle to which, of course, is more important.
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And I think inside, you know, I think about how academia is built on the basis of white supremacy and how.
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Until we understand that this notion of academic freedom of speech is built on the ideology of white supremacy, there's power dynamics involved in it.
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And it's never going to be something that allows society to move on an inclusive way.
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Absolutely. And that and that academic freedom of speech is not academic freedom of speech for all.
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Exactly. It's for people with identities that we find most comfortable or palatable.
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Exactly. And that that's a really important because I think there is like.
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You know, it does. I often hear the argument, you know, for lots of different and minority groups that will, you know, will.
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But. But, you know, you can't overtly decide to pay someone less or because they're a woman or not promote them
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because they're black or not hire them because they're disabled and all that sort of thing. You know, if you can't do that, it doesn't happen.
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We have we have processes against it. And you go, but. But but.
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So then why do we not have more of these people represented in senior management?
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And it's not the. Those.
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It's not that the decisions are necessarily overtly racist, but if you got a system that's based on white supremacy and, you know,
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privileges, white, male, cis, middle class, straight voices, then inevitably you're going to be making decisions that are based on.
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That history. Exactly. Exactly.
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It's it's inherently. It's inherently racist and oppressive and you which to you know, when it's not thinking outside the box,
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being innovative in approaching these issues and not do what we've always done, because, look, we're what we've always done has left us, you know.
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Yeah. Absolutely. And I think, you know, in that in terms of my own.
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Journey to understand this as a white person.
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I think, you know, one of the things that it was challenging.
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To get my head round was the ways in which things are, you know, systems are structurally racist and,
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you know, systems, academia are built on white supremacy because I don't see it.
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Because it doesn't it. I was gonna say it doesn't affect me.
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It does affect me. It affects me positively. And.
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You know, and I think as well in learning about race and racism, learning the.
00:26:29,000 --> 00:26:36,000
Learning that kind of. Racism isn't just racial slurs.
00:26:36,000 --> 00:26:46,000
And I think that's been quite a. A different quite quite a challenging thing to wrap my head around.
00:26:46,000 --> 00:26:52,000
I think over the years and has completely changed my.
00:26:52,000 --> 00:26:57,000
My perspective on. On systems.
00:26:57,000 --> 00:27:09,000
But I think it's still. You know, for instance, it's only really in recent years that when.
00:27:09,000 --> 00:27:17,000
I've. So I I when I walk in a room to a meeting, say particularly kind of any any kind of management meeting,
00:27:17,000 --> 00:27:24,000
I will always know how many women are in that room. And I will always make a mental note of, oh,
00:27:24,000 --> 00:27:32,000
I'm the only woman in this room or I'm one of three women in this room and two of us are taking notes or whatever it is.
00:27:32,000 --> 00:27:40,000
But it's only in recent years that I've. Start to walk into a room and go, hang on a minute.
00:27:40,000 --> 00:27:46,000
You're thinking about whether or not there were women in this room because you're a woman and because that's what you're looking for.
00:27:46,000 --> 00:27:53,000
And you're looking for. People like you, but realising that the majority of you know, I.
00:27:53,000 --> 00:27:57,000
So I worked in HE for eleven years now in a variety of different roles.
00:27:57,000 --> 00:28:09,000
And if I look back and think hard, I can remember very few rooms I was in that had people in them that weren't white.
00:28:09,000 --> 00:28:15,000
Yes, very few. But I really struggle to remember.
00:28:15,000 --> 00:28:21,000
Yeah, and that's and that's not from some lofty thing of I don't see right in all of that sort of stuff, it's thinking back.
00:28:21,000 --> 00:28:33,000
I'm like, no, I'm pretty sure the majority of meetings and rooms and events I've been involved in in H-E have been almost completely white.
00:28:33,000 --> 00:28:41,000
Yeah, and. It's. You know, we have we have the data.
00:28:41,000 --> 00:28:46,000
Know we have acres of it and it and it's completely stark.
00:28:46,000 --> 00:28:56,000
But that doesn't seem to be. Doesn't seem to be enough to convince people of how much of a problem this is
00:28:56,000 --> 00:29:02,000
Completely. There's lots of explanations that I mean,
00:29:02,000 --> 00:29:11,000
I don't think there are lots of explanations I've heard when you ask about the number of people who work at the university.
00:29:11,000 --> 00:29:21,000
But a big one is look at the context of Exeter. You know, it's difficult to to find the people.
00:29:21,000 --> 00:29:36,000
And, you know, I can understand that. But, you know, I think of the number of people who've kind of been interviewed for jobs who just have not been appointed here.
00:29:36,000 --> 00:29:46,000
And I know it might not have made the world of a difference and might not have meant that walking on on campus is like walking in Birmingham.
00:29:46,000 --> 00:29:55,000
But it would have made a difference if people actually stopped to examine I mean, what was happening with our hiring practises.
00:29:55,000 --> 00:30:04,000
And I really like what you say because I always wonder I mean, I'm often the only black woman in a room.
00:30:04,000 --> 00:30:10,000
I've I feel lucky that I've had a black manager in my career here.
00:30:10,000 --> 00:30:19,000
And I have had someone I've actually seen someone, a black woman managing and seen that you have had that role model.
00:30:19,000 --> 00:30:28,000
And I feel really lucky for that, about as they I actually realised that a lot of people might not ever have had that.
00:30:28,000 --> 00:30:37,000
And I think about the number of managers who don't have any kind of diversity around them at all,
00:30:37,000 --> 00:30:50,000
or the number of people who are able to make a change, who could go through months without having had a meeting that has someone who is on.
00:30:50,000 --> 00:30:57,000
Not that it does have to be equal footing, but has a position of responsibility in authority,
00:30:57,000 --> 00:31:02,000
who is a person of colour around them and how comfortable that seems to look for them,
00:31:02,000 --> 00:31:11,000
because they don't don't ever they don't seem to be uncomfortable with it.
00:31:11,000 --> 00:31:18,000
And I think, you know, I hear a lot from students as well as when people start here where am I represented.
00:31:18,000 --> 00:31:27,000
I have no black professors, I have no black teacher leads or whatever, where I'm not represented anywhere.
00:31:27,000 --> 00:31:31,000
I don't feel represented on the core set of your my course, I don't feel represented. I don't feel like I've.
00:31:31,000 --> 00:31:38,000
I don't have a role model. And I think it's just.
00:31:38,000 --> 00:31:45,000
These are the reasons that we talk about these issues because, you know, we talk about the BME attainment gap and one of the.
00:31:45,000 --> 00:31:54,000
Like, how can we expect people to succeed when the measures of success around them are not represented in that, you know?
00:31:54,000 --> 00:32:09,000
No. And and also that the reach to achievement have infinitely more blocks and hurdles and placed in in the way you know,
00:32:09,000 --> 00:32:16,000
it's not like everybody's everybody's walking through the same I, you know, perfectly open door.
00:32:16,000 --> 00:32:26,000
It's not. It's not as simple as that and I you know, I remember myself, you know, thinking when I was younger that that thing,
00:32:26,000 --> 00:32:33,000
you know, had a very kind of idealistic kind of meritocracy idea that we know if you work hard, you can do anything.
00:32:33,000 --> 00:32:39,000
Well, no, that's not that's. It's just infinitely not that simple because.
00:32:39,000 --> 00:32:45,000
No, if. And I think the thing about not seeing people represented is interesting is it just perpetuates.
00:32:45,000 --> 00:32:58,000
If you don't see yourself represented in academia, in like having black professors and role models, then you don't consider that to be a route that.
00:32:58,000 --> 00:33:04,000
You would go down because you don't see yourself modelled in that. And then we, you know, we continue to get it,
00:33:04,000 --> 00:33:11,000
getting this perpetual cycle of people that see themselves so they don't pursue those career routes or pursue those opportunities.
00:33:11,000 --> 00:33:16,000
And it just. All that does is reinforce.
00:33:16,000 --> 00:33:26,000
The status quo. Right, yeah. And it seems to me.
00:33:26,000 --> 00:33:29,000
00:33:29,000 --> 00:33:39,000
Therefore, what we need to be doing is taking a step back from that whole process and going, okay, what can we do to, you know, if we're not hiring?
00:33:39,000 --> 00:33:44,000
Very many black people, if we're not attractzing that many black researchers or black academics.
00:33:44,000 --> 00:33:56,000
What what can we do? More actively recruit.
00:33:56,000 --> 00:34:04,000
academics to create and to put policies and environment in place that would make black academics and students want to come here.
00:34:04,000 --> 00:34:11,000
If we think that's the issue, then what what can we do to to change the environment,
00:34:11,000 --> 00:34:16,000
to be more attractive, but also not, I think, go out and actually.
00:34:16,000 --> 00:34:22,000
Find people not expect kind of people to come to us.
00:34:22,000 --> 00:34:25,000
That's so interesting, is that what I mean?
00:34:25,000 --> 00:34:38,000
I think in the last 12 months especially, there've been a number of open letters written to the university about racism and race at the university.
00:34:38,000 --> 00:34:44,000
And I actually there's a number of commonalities around across all the letters.
00:34:44,000 --> 00:34:50,000
But one commonality is that not not one of them talks about increasing diversity.
00:34:50,000 --> 00:35:01,000
Not one of them says we need more people of colour. All of them are just talking about the current environment and watch and what needs to be changed.
00:35:01,000 --> 00:35:09,000
And I, I just find that I found that interesting because it is saying that it is this what
00:35:09,000 --> 00:35:15,000
needs to happen in this environment for people to actually kind of recommend Exeter to people,
00:35:15,000 --> 00:35:21,000
you know, the students and people who are looking for jobs, but also because we know that you'll come and succeed,
00:35:21,000 --> 00:35:26,000
not that you'll you'll come here and have to fight racism, you know?
00:35:26,000 --> 00:35:35,000
I think of. The student body and how some, you know, some people could go through their whole career.
00:35:35,000 --> 00:35:43,000
I kind of have, you know, a relatively positive experience, let's say relatively, because no one has a perfect experience.
00:35:43,000 --> 00:35:56,000
But. But not. But without having to kind of spend emotional or physical energy and labour towards improving the environment around them.
00:35:56,000 --> 00:36:03,000
But the likelihood that black students have to come here and then be students but also be activists.
00:36:03,000 --> 00:36:11,000
Yeah. Is, well, higher than their white counterparts.
00:36:11,000 --> 00:36:24,000
And I just think about the time and energy that that takes. And it breaks my heart to think that that's an experience that people have as standard just
00:36:24,000 --> 00:36:33,000
because you are experiencing the oppression of racism and structured racism at the university,
00:36:33,000 --> 00:36:41,000
you know. Yeah. And I think that's another that's another thing I wanted to pick up on, really,
00:36:41,000 --> 00:36:47,000
is this is this sense of labour and I mean, you know, literal physical labour,
00:36:47,000 --> 00:36:56,000
but it largely kind of mental and emotional labour that goes into being being black or being BAME in
00:36:56,000 --> 00:37:03,000
this kind of environment where you don't have the same opportunities to progress and to succeed.
00:37:03,000 --> 00:37:07,000
And that, you know, potentially as a student, you're thinking about coming to university.
00:37:07,000 --> 00:37:15,000
Like you said, you're not just thinking about coming to university to enjoy it and to work and get your degree, but making a decision of do I want.
00:37:15,000 --> 00:37:22,000
Do I want to be a part of this system where I have to in some shape or form?
00:37:22,000 --> 00:37:28,000
Fight for me right to be there. Well, I mean,
00:37:28,000 --> 00:37:37,000
I think that the idea that that idea of black people having to it to be the voices that
00:37:37,000 --> 00:37:44,000
change the system in a in a place like Exeter is only exacerbated by how few of us they are.
00:37:44,000 --> 00:37:53,000
So I'm really the only black person meeting who then has to say, oh, hey, you know what?
00:37:53,000 --> 00:37:57,000
Something horrific is happening in the black community internationally.
00:37:57,000 --> 00:38:01,000
And I have to tell people that I'm not coping because of this.
00:38:01,000 --> 00:38:08,000
And I'm not even saying this because for me, but I'm saying it because we have black students and I'm hoping that I'm not
00:38:08,000 --> 00:38:12,000
the only black member of staff that those people might be around that day.
00:38:12,000 --> 00:38:21,000
And it's good practise for us to know what's going on across the world so we can support each other and be more inclusive environment.
00:38:21,000 --> 00:38:26,000
But this ends up being just constant for me in the workplace.
00:38:26,000 --> 00:38:31,000
I'm constantly the one who will have to say in a meeting. OK.
00:38:31,000 --> 00:38:41,000
What are the implications of that? Or is there an awareness of what J.K. Rowling has been saying about trans people?
00:38:41,000 --> 00:38:48,000
And what's what's what are we. What it what message are we wanting to send as colleagues and to our students?
00:38:48,000 --> 00:38:51,000
Do we are we just ignoring it? I'm really not aware of it. I do.
00:38:51,000 --> 00:38:59,000
I know it's confusing for me, but it's my I know it's been, what,
00:38:59,000 --> 00:39:08,000
almost two years now that I've been working with the network and it's been a roller coaster.
00:39:08,000 --> 00:39:20,000
Personally, I feel like I am constantly broken into pieces by conversation, hearing what people's experiences are like on the ground.
00:39:20,000 --> 00:39:30,000
Yes. And it's just heartbreaking to know that that's that's happening, but also seeing how incredible these people are.
00:39:30,000 --> 00:39:36,000
They just, you know, there's an awareness that racism is the white people's problems.
00:39:36,000 --> 00:39:41,000
It's that white person's problem is not my problem. I am phenomenal and capable.
00:39:41,000 --> 00:39:52,000
And you, whoever it is that's perpetuating the racism, just has a lot of work to do themselves, to be better people.
00:39:52,000 --> 00:39:58,000
But it's still it's not easy. It's still difficult. And I think so personally.
00:39:58,000 --> 00:40:02,000
The person probably seen my struggles the most is my husband.
00:40:02,000 --> 00:40:14,000
He's seen me where I'm just completely broken because of how hard I have to work and how little the returns feel.
00:40:14,000 --> 00:40:22,000
And but, you know, there's also. I find that the people in the university that I can work with.
00:40:22,000 --> 00:40:31,000
And we do really good work. But it's the people who are not convinced.
00:40:31,000 --> 00:40:35,000
I don't know who don't feel that racism is worth putting effort towards.
00:40:35,000 --> 00:40:44,000
Who was whose response to racism seems to its feels performative because of the things they say behind closed doors.
00:40:44,000 --> 00:40:50,000
And I've had those experiences of things said behind closed doors where.
00:40:50,000 --> 00:41:01,000
And then also having that, I think that's probably what's broken me the most, is seeing how people who are performative get away with that.
00:41:01,000 --> 00:41:06,000
They not only get away with being performative, but they get away with with doing with saying things that are harmful behind closed doors.
00:41:06,000 --> 00:41:10,000
Yeah. But because there's a power dynamic at play.
00:41:10,000 --> 00:41:15,000
They come out smelling like roses, you know. Yeah.
00:41:15,000 --> 00:41:21,000
So that's one of the things that really gets me.
00:41:21,000 --> 00:41:30,000
And I'm I'm so big on justice. I'm so big on social justice that I want to I want to shake up the system and say this is wrong.
00:41:30,000 --> 00:41:38,000
But then I'm also just aware of how strong the the political dynamics are in higher education and life in general,
00:41:38,000 --> 00:41:45,000
but in higher education specifically. That's very hierarchical. It's incredibly political.
00:41:45,000 --> 00:41:52,000
And you have to pick your I. I've come to a stage where I you know, I have to pick my battles.
00:41:52,000 --> 00:42:01,000
And I also, you know, have to think about where I want to invest my own emotional energy.
00:42:01,000 --> 00:42:11,000
Yeah. There's an extent to which I actually feel that the university, there are pockets in the university where really, really good work is being done.
00:42:11,000 --> 00:42:19,000
I've and I I have faith and trust that there'll be really, really good outcomes out of it.
00:42:19,000 --> 00:42:30,000
And it is more about setting up systems where people are incentivised to think about the racism and race
00:42:30,000 --> 00:42:34,000
power dynamics because there isn't an incentive if if someone's not engaged.
00:42:34,000 --> 00:42:43,000
How do you engage people who are not engaged, basically? And I think that's where the issue will always lie.
00:42:43,000 --> 00:42:52,000
But, you know, I also feel a level of frustration that I can't just have I can't just build my career.
00:42:52,000 --> 00:43:02,000
Why do I have to be an advocate advocates alongside building a career?
00:43:02,000 --> 00:43:07,000
You know, I think. I just want to.
00:43:07,000 --> 00:43:12,000
I'm doing this because when when my kids are working,
00:43:12,000 --> 00:43:16,000
I'm hopeful that they will be in a position where they are more likely to be able to just
00:43:16,000 --> 00:43:21,000
build their careers without having to be activists because of the colour of their skin.
00:43:21,000 --> 00:43:24,000
They can be activists because the world will always need it,
00:43:24,000 --> 00:43:30,000
but not because their mom was black, that they need to do this to do things.
00:43:30,000 --> 00:43:38,000
In addition to what? Other people who have a level of privilege that they don't have can do.
00:43:38,000 --> 00:43:43,000
And that really reminds me of what you said earlier about your kind of your experience of of trying to
00:43:43,000 --> 00:43:49,000
progress and going in to interview for jobs and always being told you were appointable
00:43:49,000 --> 00:43:53,000
appointable not appointed is what I call it.
00:43:53,000 --> 00:44:00,000
And I suppose seeing it in that situation and feeling that frustration and all of the work that needs to be done.
00:44:00,000 --> 00:44:07,000
Whilst I am imagining you're watching white colleagues.
00:44:07,000 --> 00:44:15,000
progress up that ladder more easily. Completely.
00:44:15,000 --> 00:44:22,000
And I that's completely right. I think I remember looking at my credentials.
00:44:22,000 --> 00:44:27,000
I'm looking at the credentials of different colleagues are not. I'm not into comparing way
00:44:27,000 --> 00:44:35,000
I guess not having had a mentor to actually at one stage say, Tina, you are incredible.
00:44:35,000 --> 00:44:42,000
And you your to affirm your ambition. Having to affirm that ambition in myself because no one else is no good for you.
00:44:42,000 --> 00:44:51,000
First of all. And then kind of pegging where you you you should be in your career using kind of do it in a measured way,
00:44:51,000 --> 00:45:02,000
not just kind of finger in the sky approximation, but seeing that there are people who you operate at the same level.
00:45:02,000 --> 00:45:06,000
And. But it's it's just proving to be impossible for you.
00:45:06,000 --> 00:45:15,000
And also accepting accepting the fact that. I I don't I don't feel entitled to these jobs.
00:45:15,000 --> 00:45:26,000
But on the balance of probability, once you've had a certain number of interviews and you're appointable, something's got to work out right.
00:45:26,000 --> 00:45:30,000
All of the things that you get told it it's it's to do with the candidate pool or this, you know,
00:45:30,000 --> 00:45:37,000
that just happens to be somebody that's already working in that area or at that level or, you know, whatever the rationale is.
00:45:37,000 --> 00:45:42,000
There's got yeah. Logic tells me that at some point that's got to work in your favour.
00:45:42,000 --> 00:45:45,000
Exactly. At some point. And it's that point came
00:45:45,000 --> 00:45:56,000
But I just feel like that that point came after a hell of a lot of attempts.
00:45:56,000 --> 00:46:04,000
And it's also, you know, it's difficult to to to say that because you're kind of like.
00:46:04,000 --> 00:46:11,000
I don't know, like you imagine that people are like, oh, but maybe you weren't ready for the job or you weren't good at the job.
00:46:11,000 --> 00:46:15,000
That is, there's rationales reasons that people will have for that.
00:46:15,000 --> 00:46:20,000
And some of them might be true, but I. I do.
00:46:20,000 --> 00:46:26,000
So I say this because it's not just my experience.
00:46:26,000 --> 00:46:34,000
I have colleagues who go through similar things where I like you've got how many degrees and you're what grade and you've been trying to progress,
00:46:34,000 --> 00:46:41,000
but you're getting you're finding it impossible, you know. And this is in the professional services, not in academia.
00:46:41,000 --> 00:46:52,000
I mean, I certainly know from my from my experience as a as a woman in this environment and also trying to progress that I've got.
00:46:52,000 --> 00:46:57,000
I've got to the kind of level where women tend to top out.
00:46:57,000 --> 00:47:04,000
In H-E and so trying to progress beyond that is there is an ongoing challenge.
00:47:04,000 --> 00:47:10,000
And I think one of the things that.
00:47:10,000 --> 00:47:20,000
One of the things that I've I've struggled with, and I wondered if it it was a similar experience, is after a certain number of rejections,
00:47:20,000 --> 00:47:26,000
kind of even though people are saying that you're appointable going well, is is there something wrong with me?
00:47:26,000 --> 00:47:37,000
Why isn't it? Why is it that I keep getting rejected? I think it's very easy to then take the not the blame of it, because it's not.
00:47:37,000 --> 00:47:40,000
But go. Oh, there must be something wrong with me.
00:47:40,000 --> 00:47:48,000
And I feel really privileged to have wonderful people, particularly women in my life, to turn around, to go.
00:47:48,000 --> 00:47:54,000
No, it's not you. It's the system.
00:47:54,000 --> 00:48:03,000
But it's very difficult not to take your sense of responsibility and a sense of almost failure onto yourself.
00:48:03,000 --> 00:48:10,000
Even if you know logically that the issue is more about the system than it is about you.
00:48:10,000 --> 00:48:16,000
And I wondered if that was the same kind of. It.
00:48:16,000 --> 00:48:28,000
Yeah, completely, I don't know if there's a way to not take it on you in some way and without exactly
00:48:28,000 --> 00:48:35,000
and without that that voice that does say there's something with the system.
00:48:35,000 --> 00:48:41,000
You will take it on. And I think that's part of what I was trying to say before.
00:48:41,000 --> 00:48:52,000
But you definitely summed it up perfectly. Is that, you know, you can go after you after your nth rejection.
00:48:52,000 --> 00:48:57,000
What else could I have done? You know, what else could I have done? What's wrong with me?
00:48:57,000 --> 00:49:06,000
I am I just fooling myself to think that I should invest in this ambition that I have.
00:49:06,000 --> 00:49:14,000
And this. And the fact that I know I can do this job or whatever.
00:49:14,000 --> 00:49:24,000
But I think I I actually started to think about what this about unconscious bias and, you know,
00:49:24,000 --> 00:49:32,000
the training that we get in light of the fact that a lot of the interviews I'll have,
00:49:32,000 --> 00:49:41,000
the positions would likely to be take to be given to the successful candidate is likely to be a white woman.
00:49:41,000 --> 00:49:46,000
And the person who was in the position before is likely to be a white woman.
00:49:46,000 --> 00:49:52,000
And I think there's something to be said about unconscious bias when you're filling
00:49:52,000 --> 00:49:57,000
a position in a way that's like for like when it comes to these characteristics,
00:49:57,000 --> 00:50:08,000
because you can't see out fo the box, you can't see that there's something block stopping you from seeing someone who looks different in that position.
00:50:08,000 --> 00:50:16,000
So I think for me, it's something that I had to that I have to could I have to keep reminding myself that it's not me?
00:50:16,000 --> 00:50:26,000
I mean, I I'm always I'm someone who's into growing as a person, developing myself.
00:50:26,000 --> 00:50:32,000
So I I you know, would I get feedback, I will take it on board.
00:50:32,000 --> 00:50:39,000
But there's an extent to which I it guess there's something about the system that is blocking.
00:50:39,000 --> 00:50:43,000
There's nothing more difficult than it has to be.
00:50:43,000 --> 00:50:51,000
And I have to keep reminding myself of that because it's important it's important that I don't internalise what's going on.
00:50:51,000 --> 00:51:00,000
And I keep forging ahead and I keep trying to make a difference for future generations.
00:51:00,000 --> 00:51:09,000
And I think that really, for me, relates back to what you were saying earlier about the, you know, why you set up the network.
00:51:09,000 --> 00:51:14,000
And the importance of it is is having those.
00:51:14,000 --> 00:51:26,000
but also just people around you who share in that experience who can kind of be your voice of reason outside yourself to help you not internalise.
00:51:26,000 --> 00:51:31,000
Everything, actually. Exactly.
00:51:31,000 --> 00:51:39,000
And we do. I have colleagues that we have these conversations with about because I'm not the only one who struggled in this way.
00:51:39,000 --> 00:51:47,000
We talk about how how frustrating it is.
00:51:47,000 --> 00:51:53,000
And it's a it's a shared experience for amongst some of us.
00:51:53,000 --> 00:52:01,000
Yes. One of the things I'm I'm interested in hearing about from you as well is.
00:52:01,000 --> 00:52:11,000
What? What's changing, I'm not gonna say changed, but what's what's starting starting that process of changing as a result of.
00:52:11,000 --> 00:52:16,000
The BME network, I know from a sort of again, as an outsider,
00:52:16,000 --> 00:52:30,000
I'm seeing a lot more conversation here at university level about issues to do with race and certainly initiatives and events around race.
00:52:30,000 --> 00:52:36,000
But I wondered kind of what. Well, from your perspective, feels like it's changing.
00:52:36,000 --> 00:52:48,000
If if anything. Yeah. So I a I'd say that's the allies are definitely bringing the ship in to work more.
00:52:48,000 --> 00:52:52,000
I can't speak for the student community because I don't know.
00:52:52,000 --> 00:53:01,000
But in terms of the work environment, people who are in positions all over at different levels in the university are
00:53:01,000 --> 00:53:05,000
definitely bringing their allyship in to work and trying to and people
00:53:05,000 --> 00:53:10,000
who and people are encouraging and watching them that made it motivate themselves
00:53:10,000 --> 00:53:13,000
to learn more about what race and racism mean for them in a work context,
00:53:13,000 --> 00:53:24,000
which is phenomenal. And it's leading to a lot of these initiatives that would not have taken place before without the move.
00:53:24,000 --> 00:53:31,000
There's more conversations going on. And when I started.
00:53:31,000 --> 00:53:39,000
This whole journey in general. I remember thinking. I don't understand how we can have such white leadership and be expected to just naturally
00:53:39,000 --> 00:53:49,000
trust that our that my best interests are being incorporated into a decision or that may.
00:53:49,000 --> 00:53:55,000
That's the vantage point of being a black woman in this institution is appropriately being represented in decision making.
00:53:55,000 --> 00:53:58,000
I just I don't understand that.
00:53:58,000 --> 00:54:11,000
And I think that I'd say that there is definitely more conversation and there are there's more relationships of trust being built,
00:54:11,000 --> 00:54:18,000
which is important because I think actually I'd say that the university,
00:54:18,000 --> 00:54:24,000
as there are pockets in the university that are recognising that you don't just assume
00:54:24,000 --> 00:54:33,000
you have trust or that as a community we are saying we deserve to be able to trust you.
00:54:33,000 --> 00:54:37,000
And if you can't subscribe to that,
00:54:37,000 --> 00:54:42,000
then we're going to have an issue that when you talk about or we actually just that there's going to be
00:54:42,000 --> 00:54:48,000
something done about the fact that you don't think that you owe a duty of care to us as a community.
00:54:48,000 --> 00:54:57,000
and we knows that white assumptions and understanding about race and racism are massively flawed?
00:54:57,000 --> 00:55:08,000
So, you know, and if I can recognise that as a white person and recognise and recognise the flaws in my previous thinking as well,
00:55:08,000 --> 00:55:12,000
you know, how can we not realise that? Of course, if you're black,
00:55:12,000 --> 00:55:24,000
you don't trust white management to represent your views because you know that any guesswork they're doing about your experience is.
00:55:24,000 --> 00:55:30,000
A lot of the time wholly inaccurate. And that's not necessarily of a fault of theirs.
00:55:30,000 --> 00:55:36,000
But you've not lived it. So how how do how can you really understand the reality of that experience?
00:55:36,000 --> 00:55:41,000
And if you've not lived it and if you're not engaging with people's experience. Exactly.
00:55:41,000 --> 00:55:49,000
It's completely yet. And I think as as members of this community, I for one, was I.
00:55:49,000 --> 00:55:54,000
OK. So we're in a situation where our leadership is white.
00:55:54,000 --> 00:56:01,000
How are we going to enter a dialogue that shows that we can reach you, get you.
00:56:01,000 --> 00:56:07,000
I want to hear the language. What kind of language you're using? I want to know how we interact. Are you are you defensive when we're interacting?
00:56:07,000 --> 00:56:14,000
Or are you are you are you are you saying the right things?
00:56:14,000 --> 00:56:23,000
Are you say acknowledging the fact that things as they are are not ideal in any way, but we're working towards it or when we're in a meeting?
00:56:23,000 --> 00:56:32,000
Are you using me just as lived experience or as a professional woman in your organisation?
00:56:32,000 --> 00:56:39,000
So that that we've had conversations with different people in management at the university and they've
00:56:39,000 --> 00:56:50,000
I think that's that's been a really positive change for us and an opportunity for people to be able to be frank in conversation
00:56:50,000 --> 00:57:04,000
and to actually be building with when it comes to a lot of these initiatives as opposed to them being completely top down.
00:57:04,000 --> 00:57:09,000
And the conversation element is just crucial in general across the university.
00:57:09,000 --> 00:57:14,000
There's I think, you know, this is. A term like no other,
00:57:14,000 --> 00:57:20,000
when we look at the comms around race and racism and the university and even looking at
00:57:20,000 --> 00:57:26,000
Sir Steve Smith acknowledging certain things about race and racism at the university.
00:57:26,000 --> 00:57:33,000
In his last address to the staff shows that there is.
00:57:33,000 --> 00:57:41,000
There is something different about how things are now, and I think they even completely different how things were at the beginning of last year.
00:57:41,000 --> 00:57:47,000
Completely different. And the network has we've been so busy.
00:57:47,000 --> 00:57:51,000
We've worked so hard as a community. Yeah.
00:57:51,000 --> 00:58:02,000
We've worked so hard as a community to make sure that we are seen and that we're not only seen as people with lived experience,
00:58:02,000 --> 00:58:06,000
but we are professionals. We are capable, we're competent.
00:58:06,000 --> 00:58:12,000
And in ourselves, where I think there's there's an extent to which I'm like, OK, you know what?
00:58:12,000 --> 00:58:22,000
You might be more senior than me, but don't don't be fooled to think that you are more capable than me in any way.
00:58:22,000 --> 00:58:29,000
I have the fact that I'm a black woman that I work with every day.
00:58:29,000 --> 00:58:34,000
Things would have been things would be different if we were in we were switched places.
00:58:34,000 --> 00:58:39,000
So I think in me, it's that understanding that I might not have that position.
00:58:39,000 --> 00:58:44,000
But there are reasons for that. It's not because I am incapable or incompetent.
00:58:44,000 --> 00:58:49,000
So I'm going to act like that person has that position, because that's what I think.
00:58:49,000 --> 00:58:59,000
That's what needs to happen for things to get done. And whoever it is that I'm talking to can can kind of process how they want for themselves.
00:58:59,000 --> 00:59:06,000
But you can't deny the fact that what we're saying makes sense and things need to change.
00:59:06,000 --> 00:59:12,000
So you can you know, we can process it together. We're going to be available to process things with you.
00:59:12,000 --> 00:59:17,000
But not. But not when you're looking down on us in any way.
00:59:17,000 --> 00:59:22,000
Then we're just gonna go round you over your head or whatever, because things need to get done.
00:59:22,000 --> 00:59:28,000
So in all of this, we've talked about all of the issues and all of the work that you're doing and some
00:59:28,000 --> 00:59:33,000
of the really positive changes that are happening in our university community,
00:59:33,000 --> 00:59:41,000
certainly. And so I wanted to finish by asking you, what do you hope for?
00:59:41,000 --> 00:59:49,000
If I was going to hope for anything out of this conversation, it would be that, you know,
00:59:49,000 --> 00:59:57,000
we need to expand our horizons, expand our perspectives and think about the different experiences around us.
00:59:57,000 --> 01:00:03,000
Not, not Think that everyone sees life through our lenses and be open to that.
01:00:03,000 --> 01:00:13,000
And also be vocal in creating an environment in which more more people can succeed.
01:00:13,000 --> 01:00:18,000
And the voices of more people are are included.
01:00:18,000 --> 01:00:22,000
Thank you so much to Tina for taking the time to talk to me.
01:00:22,000 --> 01:00:31,000
I found our conversation really challenging and humbling and moving in equal measure,
01:00:31,000 --> 01:00:40,000
particularly around discussions of the importance of community, the importance of seeing people who look like you to being part of a community,
01:00:40,000 --> 01:00:47,000
but also having a support network where you are encountering racism, whether that be through overt racism,
01:00:47,000 --> 01:00:58,000
racism or micro aggressions or structural racism that say you've got people to share those experience with experiences with that you can relate to.
01:00:58,000 --> 01:01:03,000
I'm hoping that this discussion will be the start of a series of episodes of this podcast
01:01:03,000 --> 01:01:07,000
throughout the next few months on discriminated groups and their experiences of H-E.
01:01:07,000 --> 01:01:16,000
I think it's really important to open up the discussion and to be honest about what it's like to
01:01:16,000 --> 01:01:21,000
have a protected characteristic or be part of a minority group and operate in our environment.
01:01:21,000 --> 01:01:53,570
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, ratre and subscribe and join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers, development, and everything in between.