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Tackling Racial Harassment at Brunel - Statement of Intent 2020

Attachment A: Tackling Racial Harassment at Brunel - Statement of Intent 

Introduction 
Brunel University London is committed to providing an inclusive and respectful environment where the whole community is able to study, work and live free from racial harassment.  The University takes any incidents very seriously and will handle any report sensitively, effectively and in a timely manner.  If a student or member of staff has been impacted by racial harassment, Brunel will provide advice on how to access help and emotional support should they need.  

Purpose 
The aim of this statement of intent is to update Senate on the University’s progress to date and outlines our approach to further continue tackling racial harassment at Brunel following a request from Senate at its meeting in March 2020 to draw up a Racial Violence and Racial Harassment Policy for Students. 

We plan to draw up a plan of action to build on the policies and initiatives that we currently have in place which seek to promote a positive environment in which people are able work and study free from prejudice and discrimination and be treated fairly and with respect; provide a framework of support for staff and students who feel they have been treated unfairly and / or subject to harassment; and provide a mechanism by which complaints can wherever possible be addressed in a timely way. 

Context 
The University recognises the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 which provides protection for everyone from discrimination, and makes it unlawful to harass or discriminate against someone on the grounds of 9 protected characteristics, one of which is race. Race describes a group of people who are defined by their race, colour and nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins. The discrimination and / or harassment can be a one-off action or because of a policy or procedure based on race. It does not need to be intentional to be unlawful. 

In 2019 the Equality and Human Rights Commission conducted an Inquiry into Racial Harassment in Higher Education across the UK which revealed that there were worrying levels of racial harassment at Higher Education Institutions that were going unreported and that many Institutions were over confident both that incidents were being reported and in their ability to handle them. However many of the 3,000 staff and students from across the sector who responded to the Inquiry who had experienced racial harassment had not reported it to their institution primarily because of a lack of confidence that the issue would be addressed and because of a fear of reprisals. For more information about the Inquiry, see: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/inquiries-and-investigations/racial-harassment-higher-education-our-inquiry

Brunel’s experience resonates with the sector’s experience on low reporting levels for both staff and students and whilst we hope there is no over-confidence in whether individuals come forward to report issues of racial harassment and / or that they would be always tackled appropriately and effectively without fear of reprisals, we should not be complacent. 

On the publication of the EHRC’s findings, Universities UK (the collective voice for 137 British universities) committed to leading cross-sector action to support universities to take urgent action to prevent and respond to racial harassment. They are due to further report in summer 2020. 

In April 2020 Student Services set up a group of students and staff to work on developing a Policy on Racial Violence and Racial Harassment for Students. Through some courageous and deeply concerning conversations where individuals came forward and shared very personal experiences of the barriers and unfair behaviours that they face regularly at Brunel, 2 key themes emerged. Firstly that a whole university approach was needed rather than a framework simply for students and secondly that Racial Violence and Racial Harassment was in fact too narrower a theme and we should be looking at the broader subject of “Anti-Racism”. HR were then approached to adopt a whole university approach and in consultation with the Changing the Culture Working Group, the following statement of intent has been drawn up. 

Current Provision at Brunel 
The University has 2 key policies and a number of activities in place to help ensure that the whole of the University community are treated equally with dignity and respect regardless of the social or cultural background that they come from. These cover the 9 characteristics that are defined by the equality legislation as protected characteristics including race. The policies are: 

They both provide a framework for how the University will support staff and students who have experienced bullying or harassment and provides advice and support on how the University will support them and how they can the report any incidents should they want. 

We also deliver a range of activities to raise awareness and provide support which include: 

  • Mandatory equality and diversity training for staff 
  • An online implicit bias module for staff 
  • Anti-harassment statement signed by the Vice Chancellor 
  • Anti-Harassment Advisers to provide support to staff 
  • Dignity at Work training for staff and departments
  • Providing the report and support tool for students to report incidences of hate crime, harassment and discrimination  
  • Guidance for students on how to seek support and make a report 

Next Steps 
The Changing the Culture Working Group would like to propose the following plan of action: 

  • adopt a whole university approach to tackling racial harassment and anti-racism 
  • considering racial harassment within the broader context of anti-racism to enable more detailed work on racial discrimination, micro-aggressions, implicit bias, our student awards and progression gap and the BAME payment and progression gap 
  • consider further what type of framework would be best suited in the Higher Educational context to articulate the University’s commitment and provision to ensure that BAME students and staff are not disadvantaged or discriminated against in their work, study or research at Brunel such as a policy or guidance, and develop accordingly  
  • work with the BME Staff Network Group and the BME student liberation officer and societies to explore the concerns that individuals have in reporting racial harassment and whether they feel the policies and procedures that we have are robust to enable us to better understand what the barriers are to reporting 
  • consult with individual students and staff to understand better the barriers that they face when reporting racial harassment and seeking support and to take appropriate action 
  • review whether we promote our current processes effectively 
  • develop a programme of workshops / events / awareness sessions designed to educate students and staff on how to support and encourage victims and witnesses to report incidents  
  • provide anti-racism training for staff and students 
  • continue the development of providing inclusive teaching and learning 
  • launch the Green Dot Campaign which aims to create a respectful and campus culture that is intolerant of violence and harassment, and a society where everyone feels safe and welcome. 
  • encourage the University / departments who are applying for an Athena SWAN award to review ethnicity data as well as gender data.   
  • add the work on anti-racism to the University’s new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy which will be launched later in the year. 

An action plan which sets clear targets and milestones with named leads and key performance indicators; progress will be reviewed routinely by the Equality and Diversity Management Committee and reported regularly to the Student Experience and Welfare Committee up to Senate, and the Equal Opportunities and HR Committee up to the Executive Board.