KEMA stage second week of action against King’s BME Attainment Gap

Students protesting by the 'Meet the Professors' display

King’s Ethnic Minority Association (KEMA) held a second week of protests in opposition to the university’s inaction on addressing the BME Attainment Gap.

Following on from their action last week which saw dozens of students walk out of their lectures. KEMA held a second protest in front of the “Meet the Professors” display outside the Edmund J Safra Lecture theatre.

The display aims to celebrate diversity at King’s by showcasing its female professors, but has been criticised for lacking BME representation.

KEMA held their action outside the “Meet the Professors” display to highlight its lack of non-white faces. Students and staff held posters of black female silhouettes and chanted: “Where are we on this wall? Nowhere, Nowhere.”

Second year Liberal Arts student Cam Marra said “The wall says that we’re not welcome here, that we can’t achieve what these women achieved, that we don’t matter. We’re not represented on this wall.”

First year Law student Bobby Sun spoke about Glasgow University postgraduate Hafizah Noor Isa, who confirmed Einstein’s gravitational waves theory. Bobby said “Young non-white scientists at King’s need to be inspired by examples like her. But with this wall of white professors – whose potential is being denied? Our potential!”

Last week's walkout in the Quad

The protest comes in the wake of a collective email sent by Principal Ed Byrne who responded to 70 students and staff demanding answers to the university’s actions on the BME attainment gap.

The Principal said “[The college] recognise that we have more work to do but I hope current and planned initiatives will indicate how seriously we are taking all these issues.” The email also included up to date figures on the BME attainment gap at King’s in 2014/15 at 12%.

Yet the discrepancy between this figure and the one reported by KEMA has led to concerns that King’s may have changed or manipulated statistics.

KEMA have stated that the college’s own diversity and inclusion department sent figures stating the BME attainment gap at King’s was 19% in the year 2014/15. They claim the figure was changed to 12% after KEMA “started to ask more questions and investigate the data. [With] no staff member in the department explaining the discrepancy”.

Former KCLSU LGBT officer Travis Alabanza said: “The principal doesn’t want to hear from students of colour on the ground that we aren’t having a great education. Instead King’s management want to pretend that through all these diversity initiatives that we’re feeling the effects, but we wouldn’t be here if we were.”

According to national figures, BME students are 20% less likely to get a 2:1 or a first class degree in comparison to their white counterparts.

Studies attempting to justify the attainment gap have described a range of factors, from lack of welfare provision for BME students, to lack of diversity within the curricula.

Organisers of today’s actions hoped it will add further pressure to the university to meet the demands KEMA set out, and for the principal to issue a public apology to BME students for the “university’s current failings”.

KCLSU Ethnic Minority officer Maria Dadabhoy said: “We as PoC (people of colour) students make up 43% of the undergraduate population. These things affect us. They are for us, so why doesn’t King’s ask us? We’re not asking for anything more, we just want the same as every other student”.

Since the email sent to 70 students and staff members, the Principal has said that he will hold an ‘open’ meeting with 10-15 PoC students selected by the Equality and Diversity department at King’s.

KEMA has not been consulted about this meeting and have expressed their feeling that this gesture is inadequate and not inclusive enough.

Additional reporting by Areeb Ul.

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