On Monday 1 June 2020, Central shared a message across its social media channels, which was attempting to show genuine solidarity with our community in respect of Black Lives Matter Movement. On reflection we understand why the message caused pain to some of our community and contributed to the further ostracization of our Black students, which was never the intention. We are truly sorry for this.
We know Central remains a predominantly white institution, but we stand in solidarity with the Black community in condemning all racism. We believe in the power and responsibility of education and the arts to help build community and we are fully committed to making a better world, of which we can all be proud, through our performances, our teaching and learning, research, community work and through working together on campaigns and initiatives. This is something that we have tried to actively capture in our school wide induction (How to Central) so that all new UG, PG, and PhD students are orientated to these values.
Systems can be racist, and Central has been and remains complicit in ongoing systemic racism, for which we are deeply sorry. Over the past few years students have spoken out and shone a light on these systemic issues and although we have started to implement institutional changes (see Central's Inclusion Initiatives), we recognise we still have a long way to go. We must continue to learn from the experiences of our student and staff community. We must learn too from those Black scholars, artists and activists among us who are working to help Central become more conscious of its systemic issues, overcome them and play a leading role in transforming the arts and society.
Holly, Student Union President and Monica, Black and Ethnic Minorities Officer have shared the students’ responses to Monday’s post and also some suggestions. Our revulsion at the state-sponsored violence we are seeing, connected to protests against the murder of George Floyd and countless others, particularly in the context of global pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black and Brown people, must be a catalyst and call to action for us all, but we recognise that for Central to align itself with Black Lives Matter, will inevitably raise unresolved questions about Central’s past and present inclusiveness. We are learning from this. We – the management of the School and the SU – encourage our students to hold us accountable, just as the Board of Governors and all levels of staff will hold themselves accountable for our ability to act as an anti-racist institution.
Now is the time for the arts and education to stand in unity. We know that many students and staff would like to use their voices in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign, and show solidarity with Black colleagues, families, and friends. We hope that everyone will help make Central a safe space for them to do so.
To start, we propose that we come together this Friday at 3pm (which we think is a reasonable time for those in the US) to stand (or take a knee) together—across the distances that currently divide us in our separate homes—for a two-minute Zoom silence in memory of George Floyd.
We will also be encouraging teaching staff and course leaders to reach out to Black students, to check that they are ok. We recognise that current public events are traumatic for many people, but particularly for that minority of us who are Black. We encourage anyone who feels affected to make use of the support available such as meeting with a support advisor, the inclusion surgeries or making use of the formal reporting process to report incidents on racial harassment and discrimination.
For all of our students at Central, anywhere in the world but particularly those in the US, please bear in mind that if you are the victim of a hate incident, racism or have any concerns around your safety and would like to seek advice, please email SAS@cssd.ac.uk to request a phone or video Support Advisor Meeting with a familiar member of staff from the Student Centre.
These meetings offer a space to check in with staff who are experienced in supporting students’ emotional wellbeing and offering support through a range of difficulties. Support Advisors are professional, non-judgemental, knowledgeable and approachable and are a good place to talk about your concerns. Students can request a meeting by completing this online form. For more information about the meetings, please email SAS@cssd.ac.uk.
Also, the School’s Report and Support MyCentral webpages contain information, advice and signposting to both internal support services and external organisations who can support victims of Hate Crime and Discrimination.
All staff and students are welcome to attend weekly inclusion surgeries. Please contact Jo Shah at Jo.Shah@cssd.ac.uk to express interest and arrange a conversation.
We know that many in our community are feeling threatened, scared and powerless at the moment. Below are some resources that you may find useful.
This statement has been jointly written following a meeting between Dean of School; Student Union President; Student Union - Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Officer; Head of Student Experience; Programme Leader, Learning Skills and Acting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist; Student Advice Service Manager; and Director of Learning and Teaching. We are grateful for input from the Networks for Staff and Students of Colour and other Black colleagues – you know who you are. Thank you.