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12th June 2020

Black Lives Matter and Exeter College

The Fellows, the staff and the students of Exeter College have been horrified and outraged by the brutal killing of George Floyd. As a diverse community strongly committed to racial equality and deeply opposed to racism and discrimination, we are appalled by the events in Minneapolis which have prompted the recent worldwide outpouring of distress. As an institution committed to education and research, Exeter is also profoundly concerned by the underlying injustices in the UK and elsewhere which have meant that this atrocity resonates so widely and so painfully.

The College wishes to emphasise to its members – in particular its Black and other minority ethnic students – affected by the current crisis that Exeter’s Tutors, Advisers and Welfare Services are available to meet immediate concerns, including those related to workload and assessment.

We at Exeter are not complacent. We acknowledge that substantial proactive effort is needed – right across higher education, in the UK and beyond – to address issues of racial inequality and representation. The events of the past two weeks have increased our desire to intensify Exeter College’s commitments to achieve racial equality, to increase diversity among students, Fellows and staff, and to ensure that the College is a welcoming and supportive place for Black and other minority ethnic people.

Exeter College is committed to undertaking this initiative and to making it effective. In adopting our new Strategy in June 2019, Exeter identified as its prime objective greater diversity among students, staff and Fellows. To this end, aided by a major benefaction, the College has launched ‘Exeter Plus’, an ambitious project aimed at increasing the proportion of students from ethnic and other groups currently under-represented in the College, especially among our UK undergraduates. As part of this project a special ‘bridging’ programme strives to ease the transitional challenges faced by such students both before and after they arrive in Oxford. Also, a change in University policy means that Exeter is now able to extend its outreach efforts, a welcome move through which we hope to recruit more Black students.

In taking such steps Exeter recognises the necessity to face up to its own history. Exeter’s Governing Body launched in March a Legacies of Slavery Project whose objective is to determine the extent and impact of the College’s historic ties to slaveholding and the wider colonial past. Acknowledging this history is an important way to begin to address some of the enduring inequalities that are a legacy of enslavement. This enquiry complements the work of Fellows of the College who research and teach the history of slavery and imperialism, post-colonial literature, and human rights law.

We are conscious, however, that much more can and should be done. With that in mind, some undergraduates, postgraduates and Fellows have been formulating ideas. Among the possible projects being actively discussed are:

  • The introduction of a new racial equality focus for the College’s equalities policy
  • A fund, for the College Library, to establish and refresh regularly a racial equality section
  • The introduction of compulsory workshops, during both undergraduate and postgraduate freshers’ weeks, designed to educate students on issues affecting Black and other minority ethnic communities
  • Enhanced training in Equality and Diversity for all who work and study at Exeter
  • Requests to tutors to consider increasing the diversity of reading lists for tutorials
  • Special lectures and seminars particularly relevant to racial equality
  • The intensification of the minority ethnic strand, and especially of efforts to recruit Black students, of the College’s outreach policy regarding admissions, including Open Days for prospective undergraduates
  • Increased attention to Black and other minority ethnic issues in College publications, including the Exeter website
  • Strengthening ties to Target Oxbridge (which aims to facilitate applications from Black students) and the Oxford African and Caribbean Society

Exeter also supports university-wide initiatives including: fundraising for scholarships for Black students, the review of Equality and Diversity training materials, the introduction of a track within the UNIQ programme to meet the specific needs of Black and other ethnic minority attendees, enhancement of the University Counselling Service’s work with Black students, and continuation of work with the pressing diversity challenges relating to other groups.

At Exeter we believe that Black Lives Matter. They enrich the entire College community, as they do society as a whole, and deserve to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. We commit ourselves to a major programme of additional work in this important cause.

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