Following the events of the last few weeks, KCL Intersectional Feminist Society would like to reiterate their support for King’s Ethnic Minority Association (KEMA), and continue to stand in full solidarity with their efforts to challenge the university’s silence surrounding POC students’ experiences on campus.
KEMA have worked tirelessly in order to have BME students’ voices heard and acknowledged, only to be repeatedly dismissed and treated with suspicion by the college in the process. There are just some of the issues they have faced this past month:
1) Prior to the PoC walkout on 11th February, KEMA received ‘updated’ information on the data collected for the attainment gap at King’s showing that it has been severely distorted – while the results of the Diversity and Inclusion report from the academic year 2014/2015 revealed that the attainment gap at KCL was 19%, KEMA later received an email stating this figure had changed to 12% with little explanation on how this error was made and why it was only amended once the statistics had been investigated.
2) Moreover, they were subsequently informed in an email from the Principal that there was a BME Student Success Working Group set up to tackle their demands, which in fact was discovered to have been disbanded at the end of the last academic year as was confirmed by Ben Hunt, VP of Education (Arts and Sciences) who was said to be part of the Working Group.
3) The same email also noted that harassment and bullying reporting systems have been overhauled due to the college-wide It Stops Here campaign. This, however, is a campaign against sexual harassment and conflating the two campaigns is a disservice to the main student organiser, and Co-President of iFemSoc, Hareem Ghani.
4) Just before the ‘Blackout the White Wall’ action which took place on 18th February, it came to KEMA’s attention that the Principal had requested a member of staff from the Diversity and Inclusion department to arbitrarily pick ten to fifteen PoC students to speak on behalf of the entire campaign, rather than agreeing to an open meeting that KEMA initially requested. KEMA had not been contacted regarding this, and we feel the decision to have a closed meeting demonstrated that there had been a fundamental lack of understanding of the real issues at hand.
5) Five internal security officials and two uniformed police officers were also called to this action, which involved a peaceful protest of approximately fifty students. This was a ridiculous overreaction, and reflects the all-too-common tendency to automatically treat BME communities as suspects.
These instances clearly indicate that the college refused to admit to their failings, and have instead tried to undermine the demands of PoC students with excuses and ambiguous information. Meanwhile, students involved with the campaign have faced relentless online harassment as well as underhand comments from staff members, which is completely unacceptable.
Nevertheless, representatives from KEMA have refused to back down and as a result of their persistent efforts, have secured an open meeting to take place on Tuesday 8th March at 11.30am in the Great Hall (https://www.facebook.com/events/1954504961441837/). This is open to ALL students and will finally present the chance for students of colour to demand some solutions to an unrepresentative, Eurocentric curriculum and speak about an university environment which is largely inaccessible for them.
Once again, we affirm that iFemSoc are in complete solidarity with KEMA and we offer our support to them throughout this campaign. KEMA have also put together a full account of events, and they would be grateful if you could take some time to read it and sign their open letter addressed to the university: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19FJU0Q_jldpbHAjF7xcsHlaumyqvqKeZl5ykAijnbEY/edit
Finally, we urge you all to visibly show your support and attend next Tuesday’s open meeting, which is one that has been years in the making.
Read KEMA’s initial list of demands here: https://www.facebook.com/KEMAonline/posts/1701693873406140