Dear Colleagues and Students,
As a world leading university dedicated to academic, educational and investigative excellence, addressing issues of race, fighting racism and racial inequality are central to our mission of serving society and making the world a better place. However, we can only do this if we continue to examine and challenge ourselves with a critical eye at all times. I, along with the Provosts, SVPs, and VPs of King’s have pledged to make this happen.
The killing of George Floyd in the USA and the subsequent justifiable public outcry, are not comfortable to acknowledge. At the same time the disproportionate impact of the current Coronavirus pandemic on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals means that many of our friends, colleagues and family are facing very challenging times in terms of health, wellbeing and financially.
We, like our peers in the higher education sector, must fight against racism and the ignorance, intolerance and apathy that allows it to grow. In reflecting on what inequality means for us and our institution, we recognise that we need to do much more within the King’s community to combat racism and its consequences – here at King’s.
Yesterday, we joined with other Senior Leaders across the university to hear testimony of the structural racism that impacts on all of us at King’s College London. We heard stories of progress and stories of continued injustices, both large and small.
Many of you have been in touch with us to raise questions about what this actually means. You rightly want to know what we are doing to challenge discrimination and to address inequality at King’s. Racism and racial discrimination has no place at King’s. We recognise that it is not enough just to state our position, we have to point to our next real steps towards a more just and equitable university. We have worked with the Race Equality Network to develop this note, but we take full responsibility for our past actions, this communication and for delivering on our promises.
Talking about race
In the past few days, we have met with our colleagues leading our Race Equality Network and listened to staff and students, sharing and giving testament to the death of George Floyd that has affected so many of us in profound and personally distressing ways.
We fully accept that if we do not recognise the distress and anxiety felt by those in the King’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community, change will never occur. Conversations about race and racial discrimination are often uncomfortable, but this does not mean we should ignore or shy away from them. We are acutely aware from the complaints, petitions, open letters, calls to action and testimonies from members of the Race Equality Network, of the need to listen to and engage our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. We cannot improve if we do not listen to and learn from those in our community.
Combating racism and inequality
Our actions need to ensure that every member of our community is entitled to equality and equity of opportunity in their workplace and education regardless of their race or ethnicity. Over 50% of our undergraduates at King’s are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic but with just 24% of our colleagues identifying as Black, Asian and ethnic minority, the diversity among our students is not reflected among our staff. The Race Equality Action Plan that we are submitting in July has identified four stubborn issues for King’s which underpin our ongoing work to combat racism, discrimination and inequality. We have clear problems that we need to address in terms of:
- Increasing the ethnic diversity of our senior leaders
- Supporting staff and students to sensitively discuss race and racism
- Supporting staff and students to identify and report racial microaggressions
- Continuing to close King’s BME attainment gaps and to develop inclusive curricula
We are not complacent but we can point to a number of programmes that are designed to tackle these stubborn issues while recognising that a change in culture and mindset is central to this:
- launching the King’s Race Equality Network in June 2019 and working more closely with them to inform our decision making at the highest levels & establishing the first King’s Race Equality Board to govern our progress towards race equality
- working with Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity, who own the statue of Thomas Guy, to find ways to reflect and represent its complex history appropriately
- creating a ring-fenced fund to support the development and progression of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic talent, including a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work with students and our community to explore King’s historical links to the colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade & commissioning research on King’s history with race and racism as well as uncovering hidden and erased contributions of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people to our institution and disciplines such as Dr Harold Moody.
- implementing a series of recommendations outlined in the Bush House review
- ongoing work through Curriculum 2029, which sees programme content and teaching as a key driver of culture change and achieving inclusive education.
- ensuring our Honorary degree holders, Honorary Fellows and Visiting Honorary Lecturers and Professors include people of colour.
Many other activities are also happening at Faculty, School and departmental level. But whilst this outlines a clear commitment and set of actions, we also recognise that there is more to do to ensure our behaviours, structures and processes consistently meet the expectations and values we have set for ourselves as a community.
As a University at the heart of some of London’s most diverse communities we will continue to work with our local partners to co-create knowledge and contribute directly to our neighbours. We are proud that we are a university committed to promoting a tolerant, diverse and inclusive environment and we stand in support of all our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff across the globe and fully accept that we must demonstrate this fully and consistently in our ways of working.
Eradicating racial prejudice and discrimination cannot be achieved overnight. But the pace of change is too slow. As a university, we want to stand together to work in solidarity towards racial liberation and we also want to do what we can to provide resources to centre these issues for our students. By working together at King’s and with other universities, we can as a sector advance change to ensure that no individual is disadvantaged when joining university, studying and leaving to go into employment, based on their skin colour, race or ethnicity.
With best wishes,
Professor Edward Byrne AC President & Principal
Professor Evelyn Welch Provost/Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences)
Professor Sir Robert Lechler Provost/Senior Vice President (Health)
Chris Mottershead Senior Vice President (Quality, Strategy and Innovation)
Professor 'Funmi Olonisakin Vice President & Vice Principal (International)
Professor Reza Razavi Vice President & Vice Principal (Research)
Professor Nicola Phillips Vice President & Vice Principal (Education)
Baroness Deborah Bull Vice President & Vice Principal (London)
Professor Jonathan Grant Vice President & Vice Principal (Service)
Stephen Large Senior Vice President (Operations)
Annie Kent Interim Vice President (Finance)/CFO