Black History Month: People Looking for Places They Can ‘Fit In’. Are Universities doing enough?

Hannah Gul-Kahn on the importance of Black History Month and what universities can do to make campus better for BAME students

Hannah Gul-Khan
28th October 2021
Black History Month Events are taking place throughout campus this week including Black Mental Health Workshops, discussions and panels on the topics of diversifying spaces within Media and an opportunity to find out your blood type on campus.  The annual observance aims to celebrate significant Black contributions to wider society and Black Heritage and Culture.   

There is no doubt the implications of systematic racism that Black History Month brings awareness to are felt today, specifically in the realms of education and career pursuits.  In an interview with the BBC, 18-year-old prospective University Student David discusses the difficulties ethnic minority students must grapple with when applying for Universities in Wales.   

“But when you have to think about the fact that my skin colour may have an impact on whether I get into university or not, or whether me being from a poorer background will have an impact on whether I get into university or not, that’s quite a lot to think about, especially at our age.” - David’s concerns are not unfamiliar to the Black community.

It leads us to question whether universities are doing enough to ensure safety and security within their institutions and whether more could potentially be done. 

Currently at Newcastle University, the peer mentoring scheme seeks to aid new cohorts of students by providing them with a mentor for academic advice and guidance.  This support in an overwhelming environment can help to ease the transition of what can feel like a harrowing experience.  However, if peer mentoring could be further adapted so that peer mentors and mentees were of the same background where this is possible, this support would be maximised to a degree it hasn’t yet.  The scope of issues that could be discussed is increased, as the student may feel a greater sense of ease with a person of similar background.  

Inviting people of colour who are flourishing within their own spheres of work to engage with students is a visual display of an aspiration being lived out as a personalised demonstration of their dream.  This person could be a contact point for students, appearing in a few lectures or seminars to help aid them in a sense of affirmed identity in their chosen career paths.   

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