What your reps are up to...

NSU reps volunteer to speak up for Northumbria students, giving their time to improve the student experience. This blog is their place to share views and updates, and we hope it gives an interesting insight into some of the work going on to speak up for students at Northumbria. 

Black Students Winter conference!

Just a little update for you all on how the NUS Black Students Winter conference! This was an eye-opening conference and I learnt so much about other universities as well as black students themselves. It was amazing to be surrounded by such amazing minorities with so many stories. Some more emotional than others but the one thing everyone had in common was they wanted to represent black students in the way they should be represented.

On day 1 of the conference there was an intro to NUS and the work they do themselves. NUS promote, defend and extend student rights. They fight discrimination, isolation and injustice through campaigning and targeted action. The organisation themselves does a lot around diversity. When we first arrived, there was a chance for everyone to network with each other-I got to know a lot of students through this. It was good to see my equivalents at other universities as well as some full time BAME officers. 

Then there were the housekeeping rules which basically enforced the idea that there will be no judging during the event in terms of sexuality, gender, ect. It enforced the idea of everyone being able to voice their views. Ilyas Nagdee who is an NUS Black Students Officer; opened the event with a few black history facts. He also spoke about some very famous black individual protests and how the NUS conference came about. It gave everyone a good insight to why they were at the conference. 

Our first task was discussing dismantling racist structures at our institutions. We had Lola Olufemi talking about the network she started at Cambridge University around racist structures and it’s still continued till today. The discussion was based around the way Lola had to speak to subject heads such as English literature and question why they weren’t using literature from black authors. Then there was more discussion on how sabbs could be more inclusive in terms of helping BAME officers-especially full-time officers.

During lunch, we were put into groups based on where we were from in the UK. I was in the north-east group (the best!) where I met one of the officers at Newcastle and Sunderland university. They agreed that the biggest issues our universities have is student engagement and we worked on some things to improve this such as more social media awareness of the things BAME officers are up to. 

We then went on to help NUS with a research project. Discussing aspects like why we chose our university degree, what can uni’s do to help BAME students, how can we close the attainment gap and the issues universities aren’t addressing but are brushing over. It was here where students had the chance to discuss their racist experiences at their universities. There was an individual who spoke about getting told off after a meeting as she wasn’t ‘smiley enough for a black female’. 

In the evening, there was karaoke and dinner which was fun!

Sunday was a relaxed day in terms of activities. We had an update on NUS, the work they did and on Black students conferences themselves. During the day, we looked at a lot of news articles on unfairness of black individuals. We also looked at crime within black individuals, why they occur and how they were reported compared to white individual crimes. We looked at cases such as the Stephen Lawrence case which is extremely significant to us. During the day, we had a panel discussing race and criminal justice-as a law student this was appealing to me. It showed the unfairness black individuals still face today and what they faced through history too. There was talks around drugs and youths and how this impacts society. At the end of the second day we all shared each other’s successes; what we had done at our unions, how we had overcome certain events and just in general how we all support each other and BAME students.

The weekend was reflective and an eye-opening event. It made me empathise with a lot of the things BAME officers face within their institutions and the difficulties they have to overcome just to be able to do their jobs. From the BAME officer who was suspended because she reported a crime to the black female who was supposed to be smiley at all times. All these events show us why we have to have these sorts of conferences to show they’re not alone in this!

If anyone would like to see some articles or have any other information please don’t hesitate to email me on salma2.asghar@northumbria.ac.uk

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