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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

School of Biological Sciences statement on Black Lives Matter

Published: 24 June 2020

We are writing as staff and students in the School of Biological Sciences to share our grief for all those who have lost their lives to racism, and express our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests. We stand together with our black colleagues and students to speak out against racism and anti-blackness.

We are acutely aware that such expressions of solidarity can form part of a broader trend within UK higher education where universities and departments speak of ‘promoting diversity’ whilst failing to challenge the systemic racism that is embedded into the very heart of our institutions. We are painfully aware of this racism that sees staff and students stereotyped, and denied jobs and opportunities because of the colour of their skin. Racism is not a problem that occurs ‘elsewhere’, or one that has only happened in the last two weeks. Racism is always closer to home, closer to us. Racism breeds hate, breaks aspirations and careers.

We are also painfully aware that Biological Sciences continues to be a predominantly white discipline. This is part of a structural problem in higher education that is perpetuated by the systemic wrongs that racism creates. Across the UK less than 1% of professors are black, and there are even fewer black female professors. The attainment gap in undergraduate education is particularly pronounced for black students. Research shows that black PhD students are disadvantaged when it comes to securing research council funding, and over the last three years, only 1.2% of UKRI PhD studentships were awarded to black or black mixed students. 

We refuse to remain silent, as silence and violent inaction uphold everyday racism. So, we stand in solidarity, but we do so with a sense of shame, and with a recognition of the work that still so urgently needs to be done to challenge white privilege. We stand in solidarity against the racial harassment and discrimination that black students and staff face across UK Higher Education institutions. We stand in solidarity with movements seeking to resist hostile environment policies on our campuses. We stand in solidarity with the disproportionate number of black workers at our institution who are paid only fractionally above the living wage. 

We know that to challenge and combat effectively racism, we need more than just writing a statement. At our School, we are continuously challenging ourselves on whether we as a community, and through our work within our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and also the Race Equality Charter, are doing enough to eradicate inequalities and racism, and thereby create an inclusive, tolerant and fair environment. It is our dedication to support and champion the many colleagues and students who have been doing a laudable work, for a very long time, towards achieving equality and justice in practice. Everyone deserves opportunity and a future, and that cannot happen in an environment in which racism and anti-blackness remain.

We encourage our staff, students and alumni to donate to the UK Black Lives Matter fundraiser.

Black and Minority Ethnic SoBS students might be interested in joining the Southampton Black Students’ Network.

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