This March, I was invited to Advance HE’s annual Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Conference. As it was my first time at their conference, or any conference! So I was curious to see how the day would pan out, needless to say I was not disappointed.
Using the app to scroll through the day’s itinerary, my first workshop was delivered by the Open University which highlighted their ‘Personal Learning Advice Service’. The aim of such is to mentor black students at the university, supporting them both academically and personally. The informational aspect of the workshop ran us through how the programme worked, whilst spotlighting successes of the advice service. Then in groups, delegates shared their thoughts on working with marginalised students and the obstacles faced here, with a focus on virtual engagement due to the nature of the Open University. It was interesting to hear how some delegates from universities agreed that more specific anti-racism training would allow them to feel more confident in their roles.
During the second part of the day, I attended a seminar entitled “Oops! Was that offensive? Inclusivity for the non politically correct” led by Barbara Howard-Hunt. This session really highlighted for me the discursive nuances within the EDI sector, as Barbara walked us through the structural differences of inclusion versus inclusivity. In groups, we worked together to define inclusion as well as sharing examples of times when inclusivity has been absent in our institutions. I found it insightful to learn about the different ways that a lack of inclusivity manifests in day-to-day university life. One example included a university’s prayer room being located in the basement of an old building, prone to flooding during the wetter months. My main takeaway from the workshop was something that would be reiterated in the final panel of the day. Barbara spoke of how, in order to engage more with the EDI community, we cannot censor specific voices. In this way, we can hopefully spark meaningful and sustainable change.
The day concluded with a panel that explored navigating freedom of speech and protection from harm. This was the highlight of my day. As a student with intersecting identities, it’s important that my university does its best to diminish any hateful activity on campus. At the same time, I understand the importance of allowing conversation and dialogue. The panel emphasised the importance of striking a balance. In this way, we don't disillusion or exclude voices who are eager to learn, but also do not tolerate any form of hate or violence against already marginalised students.
Thanks to Advance HE for hosting such an important and engaging conference, hope to see you again next year!
Race Equality Colloquium 2022: Race Equality in Transformative Times: Exploring intersections of minority-racialised identity and neurodiversity
This virtual event, Wednesday 4 May 2022, offers an opportunity to explore the interplay between racialised identity and neurodiversity. Delegates will be able to investigate and conceptualise holistic models of inclusion in order to provide positive educational experiences and promote success for racially minoritised students with neurodiverse abilities. Find out more here.