King’s College London has announced two new policies to close the BME attainment gap. This comes after several months of campaigning by different groups across the university.
The Open Doors Project will start in April, to tackle black and minority ethnic (BME) representation and encourage greater BME participation.
In an email sent out to all students, Vice-Principal Chris Mottershead announced on Monday that photographs will go up on door panels across the university to “highlight the many and great contributions our BME staff and students make to student life.”
A new mentoring scheme will also start in September, which will see BME undergraduates paired with a BME member of staff.
Both projects have been announced in the wake of campaigns such as “Why is my curriculum white?” and the BME student walkout.
Ethnic minorities at King’s College London are up to 19% less likely to get a first or 2:1. At University College London (UCL) the difference is only 2.8%.
Principal Ed Byrne said “I am determined that fairness and equality and diversity are things that we embrace absolutely at our heart.” He believes that the Open Door Project “will make it very clear that we have brilliant role models that young people can aspire to.”
However, the project has not been so well received by students. Ethnic Minorities Officer Maria Dadabhoy said “I, along with other students, was disheartened, upset and disappointed by the email.” Open Doors “is an inadequate and self-congratulatory response.”
Travis Alabanza, a prominent member of the BME campaign and LGBT+ officer, said “I’m glad it’s being talked about but representation and photos don’t solve the problems – I hope they engage in hard and difficult conversations with us.”
He added, “I hope that King’s Ethnic Minority Association (KEMA) are approached to be on these windows, that black women and trans voices appear too.”
— Travis (@travisalabanza) March 8, 2016
Maria also told Roar! that VP Chris Mottershead’s email was at odds with Principal Ed Byrne’s promises to students. At open meetings, the Principal had said he would personally send out and email addressing the BME attainment gap, KEMA, and the 2 open meetings. None of these were mentioned and the Principal did not send the said email.
Hareem Ghani, founder of the KCL Women of Colour group, echoed Maria saying “I was disappointed that the email failed to mention the names of the two organisers (let alone KEMA) once.”
She also hopes that the project includes students that may not have the best grades but who have contributed to university life. The BME attainment gap means that it is important not to “limit excellence to academic achievements.”