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Posted 30 September 2020
Celebrations and changes this Black History Month
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Black History Month, a month where we celebrate the culture and the achievements of black communities. But this year, we plan to keep recognizing black achievements and culture well beyond the ‘token’ month and, as a society, use this as an opportunity to build on the recent momentum to drive real change.

2020 has been a strange year for many of us with the global pandemic creating life-changing disruption but it has also been a year of self-reflection. The murder of George Floyd has sparked a powerful and promising global movement and whilst witnessing the cries of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and hearing the frustration and fury in my friends and colleagues’ voices, I also felt a sense of hope and determination.

Determination that the protests will turn into policy. Determination to use any power that I have to make change. And the determination to never again allow myself to forget the privilege that I have or shy away from the oppression that I do not face and can never truly understand.

Racism exists where it is allowed to.

Systemic racism runs through organisations, societies and governments all over the world. Our students’ union and our university face the same challenges but we can make real progress. We know our failings and we know what still needs to be done. We have a past that we are not going to shy away from but we also have a future and we are continually working towards a more welcoming, and safer, environment for the black students and staff in our community.

The way in which our organisation is run is crucial in ending systemic racism; improving our policies and making sure that all staff and students are held accountable for their actions is vital in creating a better environment for black staff and students where they don’t face discrimination. Over the last 18 months, HUSU has made sustainable changes to our culture and our policy.

  • In April 2019, our Complaints procedure was reviewed by the President team and the findings taken forward over summer with a brand-new system implemented for September 2019. This new system makes it easier and more accessible for students to raise concerns or make a complaint anonymously.
  • Our Disciplinary policy and other associated policies were also reviewed to ensure that student groups and individuals are held to account for any behaviours which do not uphold the Members Code of Conduct.
  • In June 2019, our Trustee Code of Conduct was reviewed and updated; it now has a clear position on discrimination.
  • In October 2019, a new Members Code of Conduct was put in place which all members must agree to when they first sign into our website.
  • In December 2019, our Equality and Diversity policy alongside our Zero Tolerance policy was reviewed and updated by the President Team.
  • The Trustee Board agreed to carry out a full Board Effectiveness Review in October 2019 and this review took place between January and March 2020.
  • All Employee policies have been reviewed and a new handbook issued to all staff and a further review as part of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action plan will take place in the coming months.
  • And, in Summer 2020, the beginning of a new term for our current President Team, the Board of Trustees took the decision to create an Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee which was established following a working group’s considerations. The committee is now formulating a comprehensive action plan which will work through a series of projects to improve equality, diversity and inclusion at HUSU.
  • All Employee policies have been reviewed and a new handbook issued to all staff and a further review as part of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action plan will take place in the coming months.

We are working closely in partnership with the University to bring together the misconduct and disciplinary aspects of both organisations and we are now, as a students’ union more actively involved in investigations into complaints and misconduct. You can access our policies here.

This month we will host events both virtually and physically, to celebrate and learn about black culture and history which will include a campus-wide festival at the end of the month. We’re so excited and we can’t wait to share more information about this tomorrow!

We want this month to be a celebration of black history and to deliver events that all of our student community can enjoy but we also recognise that there is a lot of work still to do! We want to use this month to celebrate and reflect on the past, think about where we are now and make change for the future. We hope you will join us on our journey.

Phoebe Bastiani, President of the Students' Union

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