1. We Researched Voter Demographics As Part Of The #BetheBoss Campaign.

In our last monthly update, we reported on the outcomes of the #BetheBoss campaign which aimed to encourage more BAME candidates to run for officer positions this year.  Of 22 total candidates, 6 candidates (27%) identified as BAME which closely reflects the percentage of BAME students in the Keele student population (30%). However, as none of the elected candidates are BAME, we promised to research voter demographics with the hopes of ensuring more BAME representation in the officer team for next academic year. 

With the assistance of the University's Student Records Department, we were able to get a demographic comparison of our voting body and the wider student body, a summary of which is included below. 

 

Demographic Group 

Voters 

All Students 

Total number 

100% (1451) 

100% (11737) 

Disabled students 

28% (406) 

17.6% (2065) 

Women 

61.1% (887) 

60.5% (7099) 

LGB 

19% (275) 

11% (1163) 

BAME 

27% (391) 

35.7% (4191) 

Non-UK students 

16.1% (219) 

17% (1971) 

 

As a summary, our voter figures saw above-average turnout for women, disabled students, and students who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (figures for trans students were not available). However, we saw below-average turnout for non-UK students, as well as BAME students, the latter by a significant number. This is in line with previous elections, where turnout from BAME and international students is below the total student figures.  We will continue to run our ‘#BetheBoss campaign next year while also focussing on increasing the voter turnout amongst Keele’s BAME student population, which may also help increase BAME representation in the officer team for next academic year. 

2. We Attended Ramadan Training and will be hosting a Virtual Iftar

With Ramadan starting this week, officers and SU staff received training from the University on supporting Muslim students and colleagues throughout Ramadan. As an outcome of that training, we have decided to host a virtual Iftar for students. The virtual Iftar (meal to break the fast) will take place on Thursday 29th April. 

The fast will end at 8:34pm and we invite students to join us on Teams at 20:15. We will also hear from our Muslim Chaplain who will recite some verses from the Qur’an and give a short talk about Ramadan before we eat together. 

Everyone is welcome to take part and join in with the Ramadan spirit. To join the event check out our event page on the Keele SU website: [link] 

3. We attended NUS Liberation Conference 

The NUS (National Union of Students) Liberation conference was held between 23rd-25th March. NUS Liberation Conference brings together Black*, Disabled, LGBT+, Trans and Women Students together to build communities of activists and plan NUS campaigning work. This year, it was attended by the AU & Sport Officer, Activities and Community Officer, Disabled Students’ Officer, Gender Equality Officer, LGBTQ+ Students’ Officer and BAME Students’ Officer. We are pleased to have contributed to passing the following NUS policy discussions which can be found here:

-Singular Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy
-Make Inclusive and Accessible Environments Standard

-Period Poverty

-Pronouns on Microsoft Teams

4. We received a response from the University detailing why they will be re-submitting their application for the Race Equality Charter Bronze Award, rather than the Silver Award.

At Senate (the biggest meeting the university holds) on the 17th of March, we asked the Vice Chancellor:

“The university has been working towards the REC Silver award over the past 3 years. It is rumoured to not be able fulfil the criteria to reach it and will instead be going for the Bronze re-accreditation. If this is true; what sections of the criteria does the university not feel confident to fulfil to apply and obtain the REC Silver award?”

We received the response that:

“The University remains committed to working towards a REC Silver award. REC working groups have recently discussed the renewal and the majority of members felt that a bronze renewal in February 2022 is appropriate. While we have made good progress against our action plans, including, for example, developing an anonymous reporting tool for staff and students and the appointment of Hinna Sheikh as the University's Race Equality Officer, we recognise that there remains more to do to fully embed this work across the whole institution so reaccreditation gives us the opportunity to do that. We note that there are currently only 17 Universities in the UK with a bronze award and none with a Silver award as yet.”

Whilst it is disappointing to hear that the university isn’t pushing itself further at this time, we’re not going to stop pushing for true equality, and we remain hopeful that by the time the next submission is put forward it will be for a Silver award.

5. To mark the anniversary of the death of George Floyd in May, we will be organising a tribute to commemorate his life and the many Black lives that have been lost to police brutality.

As we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd,  we need to do something to reflect on the Black Lives Matter movement that re-emerged, what has happened since and how much more there is to do. The blatantly racist abuse of power ignited Black Lives Matter movements around the world with eyes focussed not just on the trial of the former police officer who killed George Floyd, but also the shooting in Chicago, the shooting of Daunte Wright and the anti-Asian hate of the mass shooting targeting the three Asain owned spas.

We’ll also be providing resources, recommended reading and prominent social commentators on issues regarding racial equality.

6. We started planning Black History Month 

We are working with the University to plan Black History Month in October and would like to give students the opportunity to participate in the planning and make suggestions. As from May, we will be inviting students to get involved with our meetings so keep an eye on your emails from us if you’re interested!

7. We are creating a data charter to ensure student interventions are free from bias. 

Keele University has collected and analysed student data relating to student support and retention for many years, and the changing landscape of higher education has seen the rapid expansion of the amount of data collected. 

Next academic year, Keele University will be using this data in partnership with Solutionpath to create a Student Engagement Dashboard supported by funding from the Office for Students. The intention is to improve our student support offer (and spot early signs of disengagement), though the simplified presentation of engagement data caused significant concern among the Lead Voice Representatives, Part and Full Time Officers present at demonstration sessions. As a result we have decided to create a Data Charter that ensures a base level of data protection and requires the informed consent of students before the dashboard goes live.

We’ve outlined requirements that ‘Staff must complete bias training annually before being granted access to student dashboards.’ To ensure that any modelling and interventions based on analysis of data are sound and free from bias. 

8. We published a follow-up women's safety statement

As part of our commitment to highlight and tackle the issues surrounding womens safety in the light of Sarah Everard’s murder we sent out a statement urging people to come forward with their own experiences, signposting towards relevant services to help with any experiences they may have had, as well as stating that “Our streets should be safe for all women, regardless of how they are dressed, where they are walking and at what time of day or night. It’s wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently”. We also sent out a second statement relating to the deaths of Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman and Blessing Olesungun. Three black women whose deaths were incredibly similar to Sarah Everard received next to no media attention in comparison. We expressed our frustration with the institutional racism within the post and highlighted the work that has gone into our #NeverOk campaign. The full statement alongside our previous statements can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/jvykxsvs