Tackling Racist Structures in Academia: a workshop series

Being in academia is about more than just research. To position an academic role in society, we have to answer to many responsibilities: reproducibility, open access, research ethics, good teaching practice, peer review. Considering these things is part of the job, but something that often gets left out is anti-racism. And yet, we know academia is built around racist structures. We see the consequences in all sectors: the leaky pipeline within academia, the BAME Covid-19 report, the frequent stories of AI tech that responds differently to white and non-white faces. I think it is vitally important to promote anti-racism as a standard part of academic culture, to challenge the existing biases built into the system.

The workshop series “Tackling Racist Structures in Academia” is intended to do exactly this: promote anti-racism as part and parcel of the academic culture, to encourage researchers across all faculties to engage in discussions about anti-racism, and to face the ways BAME people are disadvantaged both in academia, and by academia – as a result of research that did not fully consider the implications on BAME people.

There will be a workshop each Wednesday afternoon at 2pm for a period of three weeks, starting on October 28th. The full schedule is below:

28th October 2pm: Shabana Kausar
Anti-Racism and Intersectionality

This workshop will explore the topic of intersectionality and anti-racism. Through a range of activities, the session will focus on:

  • What is meant by anti-racism and intersectionality;
  • What prevents an intersectional approach;
  • What is the impact of racism and discrimination; and
  • What does inclusion and social equity look like?

Shabana Kausar is the Strategic Lead for ending Violence against Women and Girls across three London Boroughs. She is passionate about womens rights, tackling inequality and racism and has worked actively on ending violence and abuse on a national and international level, through training, policy work, and developing best practice. Shabana has worked in this field for 10 years and previously managed a charity called Salaam Shalom, which used media and the arts to address race and faith-based discrimination. She is on the Board of Trustees of My Body Back,which supports sexual violence survivors accessing sexual health services and a Trustee for The Sky project,a forced marriage and so called honourbased charity. She is currently undertaking a MA in Human Rights and Social Justice.

4th November 2pm: Maxine Thomas-Asante
My Voice: Power, Privilege, and Progress
Usings my research to amplify voices and make positive change

Maxine Thomas-Asante spent two years as co-president for democracy and education at SOAS, negotiating her way from unpaid student volunteering to a full-time paid role. She worked on developing support networks for BAME students: liaising between BAME students and University management, creating mentoring programs, and holding focus groups to identify some causes of the BAME attainment gap. She has an LLB from SOAS and is currently studying for a Masters in International Social and Public Policy at LSE.

11th November 2pm: Professor Peter Hegarty
Title TBC

Peter Hegarty is a professor of psychology who recently left the University of Surrey to join the Open University. Much of his research focuses on the psychology of discrimination, and he has published extensively on the construction of social norms and explanations of group differences.

Peter has spent over 20 years in research and teaching, and has won numerous awards including the British Psychological Society Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunity in Psychology in 2017, and the University of Surrey Prize for Teaching Excellence in 2004. He has contributed to the Psychology’s Feminist Voices project, and has been quoted in the media for his research on assumed whiteness.

Why do I want people to attend these workshops? It’s important to keep momentum going on anti-racism, and not pay attention only when it’s in the headlines. The monthly anti-racism reading group is a good way to keep a consistent dialogue going, but we need to hear directly from experts, as well as just reading texts.

More than anything, I feel strongly that the more we – as young researchers – spend time grappling with anti-racism now, the better place we will be to positively shape the spaces we enter throughout our careers – whether we go on to do research, develop policy, sit on editorial boards, sit on grant award panels, or write journalism – the lens of anti-racism will help us contribute to making the kind of changes we wish had already been made.

Finally, I want people to feel empowered and determined – rather than hopeless – in the face of accepting responsibility for tackling racist structures. Challenging ourselves is a method of positive development – and we should celebrate the freedom and opportunity we have. These workshops are free to all, and whether you sign up to one or to all three, I hope you will take something away.

Sapphire Lally, PGR Quantum Biology DTC