‘Matters of great concern’ addressed by Cardiff Uni’s Vice-Chancellor in letter to staff

He discusses BLM, the pandemic, Erasmus and Brexit

Vice-Chancellor Colin Riordan has written a letter to staff at Cardiff University to discuss “matters of great concern including race equality.”

In the letter, he admits that “We need much greater understanding, awareness and acknowledgement of white privilege”, and that the university will “be making an announcement in the near future about how we intend to support and encourage that development.”

In the statement, the Vice-Chancellor also proposed “a single point of contact – perhaps an ombudsman role – to ensure that complaints about racism are promptly followed up and responded to.”

With regards to the recent exposure surrounding universities and their links to the slave trade, the VC has promised an investigation into any role Cardiff may have played, saying: “In 2018 we carried out a review of potential historical links between Cardiff University and the slave trade; we found none, but in the light of recent events will conduct a further audit of our public art and sculpture. We will expand our library holdings in areas such as Black History and explore ways in which we can understand, disseminate and celebrate the diversity in our history not only as a university but as a city and country.”

He also touched on the recent BLM protests in Bute Park, which was organised by a student at Cardiff, and admits that “as a white person with both privilege and power, it is my job to listen, and to act on advice.”

“What I hear is that people react in different ways and the diversity that is present across society is of course present across the BAME community too, which is far from homogeneous and itself composed of multiple communities, traditions and cultures. But there are many people who have felt extremely hurt, angry and subject to a range of negative emotions and we must take account of the potential effect on both staff and students. Above all we must continue to listen, to act and to work with BAME colleagues and students on important projects such as improving the diversity of our leadership cadre in the University, closing the awarding gap, decolonising the curriculum and ensuring equality of opportunity for students and applicants.”

“I regret not having understood and acted on these issues earlier in my tenure as Vice-Chancellor, and feel we must take this historic opportunity to make real change, building on the foundation that we have begun to establish in recent times.”

Further on in the letter, Riordan goes on to discuss how the university may look in a post-Covid-19 world, confessing that the coming few years will be “difficult”.

“In short, as an institution we need to survive and thrive, and to do so we need to concentrate on staff and student health, safety and wellbeing, financial sustainability, student experience, research, and civic mission with a particular emphasis on our response to COVID.”

Finally, he discusses how Brexit might affect the university and the Erasmus scheme, saying “we should continue to engage fully with the EU research mechanisms while we can, and the same goes for Erasmus+ and other existing schemes.”

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