Newcastle University student calls out the Uni for lack of diversity
Dorothy Chirwa believes Newcastle Uni must do better
Newcastle University’s Dorothy Chirwa, a third year History student, has called out Newcastle University in a series of Tweets in response to the University’s Tweet concerning #BlackoutTuesday. The Newcastle Tab spoke to Dorothy to discuss her Tweets and her experience as a black student at a majority white university and how this has affected her time in Newcastle.
On the 2nd of June, Newcastle University made attempts to engage with the George Floyd protests by Tweeting a black picture showing “solidarity” with #BlackoutTuesday. However, Dorothy called out the University in response. She cited the hypocrisy of posting about a movement yet ignoring the extreme inequality in the numbers of black students and staff that are employed by the University.
bold words from a university that has zero black professors and would rather just keep naming buildings after black people as if that’s the same thing as equality and diversity. https://t.co/74zj8eUlbb
— doz✨ (@_dxrxthy_) June 2, 2020
In 2018-2019, the University offered 17,410 places to white students, making up 76% of all white applicants. Conversely, just 48% of black applicants received offers, equating to only 400 in total.
Speaking to The Newcastle Tab, Dorothy discussed the different issues that this lack of representation and equality highlights and also the effect it has had on her time at University.
“It’s important to have black academics and staff because representation is key. The value of seeing people who look like you in these spaces promotes so much in terms of what people assume they are capable of doing. If you see a black professor, you’re more likely to subconsciously think that you can do the same.”
Dorothy also expressed the importance of representation with regard to “decolonising” the University. “There needs to be people who can dismantle systems by being able to understand them rather than relying on those who assume. Being a black student in a predominately white University is honestly a draining experience. We have the job of speaking for all black people because people automatically assume that you’re the spokesperson for every black person ever.
“People definitely have expected me to explain certain things to them. I used to do it a lot, but I don’t do it very frequently anymore because it was a lot of emotional labour on my part. I now just tell people to go and do the research themselves because it’s not my job to help people out if they want to be able to confront things about themselves.”
While recognising Newcastle’s efforts to create spaces for inclusion and diversity, Dorothy believes they are ultimately not doing enough. She explained, “I do think Newcastle University tries and I won’t negate that. This year has definitely been better especially with Sara as Welfare Officer in the SU – it’s allowed for a more inclusive feel. But they need to be making tangible change that shows their commitment to black students.
Newcastle University has begun to address this in their recent email to students by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Julie Sanders. She states that the University are “not sticking their heads in the sand” and outline the Race Equality Charter (REC) that they are part of. Also that, “lots of work is going on in individual schools and teams” such as the History, Classics and Archaeology department “decolonising” the curriculum.
“They need to talk about the inequalities and injustices that black students are facing – it’s a disservice for them to conflate all minorities into one.”
Although Dorothy has been involved with some discussions on how to improve things at the Uni, she is nonetheless still waiting to see those things implemented. Dorothy added, “I’m also looking for them to pay BAME staff and students whose emotional labour they use for these conversations. It shouldn’t be on us to make that change. If you want the time and energy of BAME people, help them”.