Statement from Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, on racism and recent events

Issue date: 02 June 2020


Racist acts are hate crimes and are condemned in any form at UWE Bristol whether enacted by students, staff, or visitors to our campuses or social media spaces.

I am aware that a UWE Bristol student recently posted a video on social media which we are investigating as a racist incident. This has caused significant pain and distress to our university community, and in particular to our Black students and staff. Racism does not belong in this university and the entire university leadership team and I are clear that we will not tolerate actions like this. The incident is currently being investigated under our Student Conduct policy which includes a framework of sanctions.

The recent shocking death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis has rightly sparked outrage across the world, and in the UK we have seen a significantly increased death rate among the BAME community from COVID-19. What is clear is that these are not one off events and that they are linked to wide spread systemic racism in wider society and in our community.

With all this going on, I know this is a particularly difficult time for BAME members of the UWE Bristol community and I want to remind you that our support services are available to support you, both internally and through our links with external agencies. Details of these services are available on our wellbeing support options pages: https://www.uwe.ac.uk/life/health-and-wellbeing/get-wellbeing-support

UWE Bristol is fully committed to tackling racism in all its forms, but I know we have more work to do in this area. The Students’ Union at UWE and BAME staff and students will play central roles in shaping our way forward and I commit us to the following:

  1. All students will be expected to take part in an induction programme at the start of the academic year which makes clear our zero-tolerance approach to racism and other forms of harassment and discrimination. This will be developed in a partnership between colleagues, students, The Students’ Union at UWE and expert external agencies.
  2. We are developing a training programme for staff focusing on our zero-tolerance approach to racism, discrimination and harassment. The rollout will be phased with staff who are student-facing as a priority to help us embed the behaviours we expect to see in our student community.
  3. We will review our conduct policies and investigative approaches for staff and students in relation to racism and other forms of harassment and discrimination. BAME staff and students and The Students’ Union at UWE will be actively involved in this process and we will also involve expert agencies. Our focus will be to ensure that the consequences of harassment and discrimination are clear and appropriate. Our aim will be to increase trust that the university takes these incidents seriously and deals with them rapidly and appropriately.
  4. We will extend our campaigns that challenge discrimination, strengthening our language and make sure students and staff feel confident to report incidents to the university.
  5. We will continue to work on diversifying our university - this means our curriculum, staff (at all levels) and students - and ensuring we create a university community where all voices are heard, respected, and valued.

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