The antiracism agenda in Higher Education – is it a showpiece or is there real impact?

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This blog was originally posted on 18 Jan 2024 on Dr Teeroumanee Nadan’s blog teeroumaneenadan.com.

Blog post ahead of my participation in LTHEchat on 7th Feb 2024, along with other officers from the Antiracism and Learning Technology Special Interest Group (ARLT SIG).

ARLT SIG will lead #LTHEChat 284: The antiracism agenda in Higher Education - is it a showpiece or is there real impact?

LTHEchat #284 will be led by guests Dr Teeroumanee Nadan @Tee_Nadan with Amin Neghavati @neghavati, Rachel Branham @ARLT_SIG & Dr Olatunde Durowoju @OADurowoju

The guest swill be joined by other officers of ARLT SIG: 

  • Roshni Bhagotra, Events Officer.
  • Chris Rowell, Events Officer. He will be tweeting from @chri5rowell

In this blog, we take you onto some initial reflections on antiracism in the Higher Education (HE) sector in preparation for some deeper conversations during our #LTHEchat session.

Antiracism a found-and-lost cause

Where do we even start with defining antiracism in the modern world? The more we dig in, the more we seem to notice people having discomfort after discomfort, thus avoiding to address the cause of this problem.

If it is not the discomfort, we witness the old age scheming of divide and conquer – we get labelled, we get boxed, we get dehumanised! Nowadays, of course, we have the added umbrella of Access, Belonging, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice & Respect which has unintentionally (or even intentionally in some cases) diluted the antiracism agenda. 

The past colonial history of the UK places British society in the hotspot for the need for change. Of course, with the digital era, we are talking more about it, but justice may never be served whether we look at it from a ‘justice as fairness’ perspective or a ‘meritocratic’ conception of justice! 

Antiracism in HE

George Floyd, George Floyd, George Floyd! 

By the end of 2020, this name echoed in very much every meeting in the HE sector. Since then, there has been a movement towards the creation of new roles around more diversity. Nonetheless, there are not many stand-alone roles solely dedicated to antiracism. There are of course the likes of the BAME network, which may be supported by a Race Equality Charter (AdvanceHE 2024a) – if you are lucky to have one in your institution (AdvanceHE 2024b); but this network is still largely seen as an optional practice and there is still a lot of argument on the naming of the network itself. It is more comfortable for most of us to prolong any discussion than to take action and create an impact!

If you are brave enough, we invite you to do further reading ahead of the LTHEchat session and to reflect on the discomfort of everyday actions from teams/departments/institutions in the sector:

In this chat, we will get take you on a one-hour journey of reflections on what role we are all playing in either perpetuating racism or transcending it. Within the HE sector, we have adapted to the digital era and use various forms of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and other tools and platforms to either facilitate education or services needed on the journey. While staff navigate through the plenitude of platforms, there are the odds of creating inequity and letting racism seep into the HE sector.  We may have all come across one such example, but what we decide to do about it, is what matters the most. We invite you to check out some of our 2022 & 2023 blogs on what the ARLT SIG community thinks about antiracism in the sector.

  • Black History Month and what it means for Learning Technologists by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan. (Nadan, 2022d).
  • Anti-racist Approaches in Technology with Guest Speaker Liza Layne. (Nadan 2022e). 
  • Anti-oppressive Pedagogies in Online Learning with Guest Speaker María Miguéliz Valcarlos. (Nadan, 2023a). 
  • Achieving inclusive education using AI with Dr Olatunde Durowoju (Nadan 2023b). 
  • Why antiracism and why not something else? By Dr Teeroumanee Nadan (Nadan 2023c).

It is time to create impact!

It is clear that justice may never be served, neither in the HE sector nor in the society at large, anyway from whom do we get this justice? There is therefore a need to focus on action and impact, and this can only be done when we allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable talking about racism and feel empowered to dismantle it – but most importantly it is when White people allow the non-White staff to feel and be empowered!

This blog would not be complete without reflecting on our own reasons for doing what we do to reduce racism in the sector.

When I came to the UK, I realised that it was common practice to brush uncomfortable topics under the carpet. I have observed this in every academic institution that I have worked at. What motivates me the most is treating the cause rather than the symptom!” Dr Teeroumanee Nadan – Read the full blog

“.. technologies are being and will be used by a wide array of learners from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds all over the world yet there is a noticeable lack of diversity in the world of EdTech and digital education” Amin Neghavati – Read the full blog

“.. as a White woman, it is my responsibility to use my privilege to dismantle racist systems wherever it lives. For me, this work is about equal access to high quality education and without understanding limitations to that access, we just are not doing our jobs.” Rachel Branham – Read the full blog

“It became apparent, through some of my research projects, that the HE sector has still not fully explored the use of technology in addressing many of the racial inclusion challenges facing the sector. … My motivation is that I can contribute in a small way to centering this issue within the HE sector and Education Technology industry” Dr Olatunde Durowoju – Read the full blog

We hope to see you en masse on 7th Feb to chat about this topic with officers of the ARLT SIG!

References

  1. Advance HE (2024a). ‌Race Equality Charter. [online].  Advance HE. Available at:  https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/equality-charters/race-equality-charter
  2. Advance HE (2024b). Race Equality Charter Members. [online]. Advance HE. Available at: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/equality-charters/race-equality-charter/members 
  3. Nadan, T. (2021). ‌Equity analysis of 6 job blurbs – a podcast for TalkingHE. [online]. Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed. Available at:  https://teeroumaneenadan.com/2021/12/22/equity-analysis-of-job-blurbs-talkinghe-podcast/
  4. Nadan, T. (2022a). Navigating racism with pseudo-antiracists. [online]. Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed. Available at: https://teeroumaneenadan.com/2022/05/26/navigating-racism-with-pseudo-antiracists/ 
  5. Nadan, T. (2022b). ‌Modern slavery in UK HEIs. [online]. Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed. Available at: https://teeroumaneenadan.com/2022/02/01/modern-slavery-in-uk-heis/ 
  6. Nadan, T. (2022c). ‌Race equality in learning technology. [online]. Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed. Available at: https://teeroumaneenadan.com/2022/02/06/race-equality-in-learning-technology/ 
  7. Nadan, T. (2022d). Notes from ARLT SIG 20th Oct 2022 meeting – Black History Month and what it means for Learning Technologists by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2022/11/notes-from-arlt-sig-20th-oct-meeting-black-history-month-and-what-it-means-for-learning-technologists/  
  8. Nadan, T. (2022e). Notes from ARLT SIG 3rd Nov 2022 webinar –  Anti-racist Approaches in Technology with Liza Layne. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2022/12/notes-from-arlt-sig-3rd-nov-meeting-anti-racist-approaches-in-technology-with-liza-layne/
  9. Nadan, T. (2023a). Notes from ARLT SIG 9th March 2023 webinar – Anti-oppressive Pedagogies in Online Learning with María Miguéliz Valcarlos. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2023/06/anti-oppressive-pedagogies-in-online-learning-with-maria-migueliz-valcarlos-notes-from-arlt-sig-march-meeting/
  10. Nadan, T. (2023b). ‌Notes from ARLT SIG 7th June 2023 webinar –  Achieving inclusive education using AI with Dr Olatunde Durowoju. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2023/06/notes-from-arlt-sig-7th-june-meeting-achieving-inclusive-education-using-ai-with-olatunde-durowoju/
  11. Nadan, T. (2023c). Anti-Racism & Learning Technology SIG: Why antiracism and why not something else?. [online]. Association for Learning Technology. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXCoTQ1XgMo 
  12. Santanu, V. and Nadan, T. (2022). Episode 14 – Discrimination in Recruitment. [online]. TalkingHE. Available at: https://anchor.fm/talkinghe/episodes/TalkingHE—Episode-14—Dr-Teeroumanee-Nadan—Discrimination-in-Recruitment-e1clspi/a-a773mv3

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