Hello, fam! We hope you’re all holding up through this long, long winter, and looking forward to spring and the days ahead, as are we. Here’s what’s been going on with the FAIR Network.
Amplifying students’ voices: 16 months to nowhere
We started 2021 off strong, doing what was in our power to seek justice on behalf of a student who came to us after exhausting all of the official channels available to report a professor for their overtly racist behaviour during a lecture and towards them in other contexts. Our letter to the senior leadership team, director, and all department heads made a splash and finally spurred on an independent investigation of the lecturer in question, and we will certainly be following up - and letting you know - where it takes us. It has also been really heartening to see the echoes of support coming from all different corners, from students coming forward to corroborate the original account, to a letter from over 80 LSHTM staff demanding concrete steps to ensure accountability.
In fact, we also received Director Piot’s response to that staff letter, in which he stated that while the professor in question is being investigated, “a considered judgement was made not to suspend the individual'' (interesting use of the passive voice here considering that according to the current governance structure - Tool Kit 2 and 3 - there’s only one member of SLT with any decision-making power). The decision was presumably made because the individual does not “pose an ongoing threat” despite their history of racist language, their lashing out to FAIR - including current staff - by threatening to sue for defamation and the pouring of emails corroborating the events...
Before we respond (which of course we will!), we wanted to know what you think. Promoting or hindering a culture of overt racism in higher education” -
Does the behaviour described in the original report (link here) merit a suspension until the investigation is complete?
Answer a single Yes or No here and see what others think as well. We will make sure to share the results with LSHTM Leadership.
Work to improve the complaints process at LSHTM
On a related note, we are currently articulating some key priorities as LSHTM leadership delves into the essential work of improving the reporting system. Our take? The process needs to be swift and reliable, with an option of anonymity, and without placing any burden on the person doing the reporting. Other pillars should be accountability and transparency, maximizing the opportunities for learning - not only for the perpetrator, but also their peers. Recognizing that we can all do better, we believe that responses to bias incidents should be characterized by grace (let’s save the indignation for the UK’s COVID-19 response, shall we?) and pledges to keep learning. Also, many of you questioned the use of an external investigator...why not but in truth, external recommendations are NOT binding and currently the system is not linked to HR...
Finally, we will share what we believe to be the guiding principle of an effective racial complaints process in a separate communication.
No More Free Labour
As mentioned in previous communications, institutionalised racism and the resulting inequalities between staff and students often manifest in the form of “volunteer” positions targeting non-white individuals. While our desire to create a better environment remains strong, these “cap in hand” roles are not only exploitative in nature, they go against the core values promoted by FAIR and stated by LSHTM leadership since June 2020. The perpetual cycle of working for nothing more than “thanks” that is created while (predominantly white) people in senior roles are fully compensated in that area of work, regardless of impact (or lack thereof) must end.
We provide SLT with answers for free that feed into their paid work, while it takes time out of ours. The expectation that we are available to identify and solve the deep-seated issues at LSHTM, when there are individuals being paid to do just that, is fundamentally problematic.
Whether it is an allowance or through other means, our time matters and should be appropriately valued. Until there is a clear framework and suitable recompense made for our collaboration, we will not be meeting with SLT on any further occasions.
Seminar in the Finance Department
This past 28 January, the FAIR Network met via Zoom with the Finance Department for a presentation and frank discussion of racism and antiracism with our colleagues. We were so happy to see the high level of engagement, debate, and the positive feedback. We very much hope this conversation continues among the team, as well as within people’s personal networks. Thanks so much for having us!
We’ve already been contacted by another department and will be working on our next seminar.
Decolonizing the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre
We are really excited to share that the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre has asked the FAIR Network to contribute (in a paid role!) to advancing the decolonization agenda in their work. We’ll share more details as these are set, but a big thanks to Neha Singh and colleagues for making this possible.
Congratulations to …
Sunil Sharma. In our last newsletter, we endorsed Sunil’s candidacy for Council, so we were thrilled to find out that he was finally elected for the post. We know that he’s going to do a great job representing all professional services staff, and we wish him the very best in raising his voice and amplifying yours.