On Thursday 16th November from 5pm -7pm the Student Success Project held the sell-out event ‘Diversifying the Ivory Tower’ as part of the official launch of the second Liberated Library campaign. The event was divided into four key sections, which included, a keynote speech from the Pro Vice Chancellor, a presentation on diversity in the curriculum; performances from creative writing students, and a roundtable discussion featuring notable guest speakers.
Mariann Rand Weaver - Pro Vice Chancellor (Quality Assurance and Enhancement), - opened the event with a keynote speech on the HE sector’s research into the BME Attainment Gap. She also discussed the efforts Brunel University London is making to create a more inclusive educational environment, which will allow all students to succeed.
Third year theatre students Tejas and Lucia spoke about their work to audit the diversity in their curriculum and reading lists, which were visualised through a presentation. This was followed by performances from three creative writing students - Iris Mauricio, Ada Kalu and Simi Ade – performing the works featured in the Hillingdon Literature Festival’s free anthology.
Coming up next was a panel discussion with the poet and Brunel University Professor - Benjamin Zephaniah, founder and publisher of Jacaranda Books – Valerie Brandes, Poet and leader of Octavia – Rachel Long and two members of the MostlyLit podcast. Chairing the discussion was William Leahy Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Civil Engagement.
The discussion covered various topic of high significance including; BAME representation in publishing, exploring the different avenues of black literature away from the stereotypical wars, gangs and drugs, why embracing a more diverse range of literature will better ourselves, the positive impact black literature has on society and the growing problem of tokenisation among reading lists in Higher education.
Professor Zephaniah highlighted his personal journey and experience of being black and growing up in the UK, illustrating his thoughts of struggle and prejudice in poems and books sold all around the world. Rachel Long and Valerie Brandes also emphasised the importance of black literature among reading lists and how bookstores can actively play a part in showcasing BAME authors. Furthermore, the panel highlighted the issues and difficulties faced amongst young black individuals and the racial ethnic prejudice in getting black literature more recognition in society.
Finally, MostlyLit reminded us all that embracing a more diverse range of literature is the next step forward in eliminating unconscious bias and creating an inclusive environment. The event concluded with a Q&A session for attendees and a chance to network with guests and the public.
The overall campaign contributed to the driving change the Student Success Project is currently doing. This includes increasing student engagement, creating an inclusive and diverse curriculum and championing the achievements of BME students in Brunel University.