By EDI I am referring to Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity. Like ‘BAME’, ‘Asian’, ‘neurodiversity‘ etc, it is a problematic term (not least because it became ‘on trend’ circa summer 2020, as if justice and human rights didn’t matter before). Still – and hence – it is important to engage with the term and to work with other colleagues to clarify how things can be. This page is a summary of some of my EDI work through art and performance at and beyond Manchester Metropolitan University as a Senior Lecturer there. See here for efforts in anti-racism and around Black Lives Matter through PAC@75 and REAP in collaboration with Professor Ola Uduku.
THE COMMON ROOM
During lockdown, I initiated a virtual, discursive and CPD space for the Department of Art and Performance, which the Head of Department termed the ‘Common Room’. I curated micro-workshops on best practices in teaching online, and invited senior colleagues from the UTA, UCL Slade and Birmingham City University’s Centre for EDI in the Arts to share skills and knowledge on online teaching, anti-racism, and internationalisation. The Common Room models how EDI can act as a superglue to spread its ‘tentacles’ across silos like subject and department. Outcomes advancing Manchester Met EDI, which drew praise from Faculty PVC as exemplary, include:
- … Introduction of protocols like Chatham House Rule and improved culture of inclusivity as a safe(r) space to discuss, learn and teach on race and anti-racism;
- … Co-creation of decolonisation resources and toolkits on Moodle that staff have been using for their own CPD, and for teaching BA, PGT and PG students;
- … A new EDI strand of 7-units, 14 hours PAHC training programme was introduced, thus structurally ensuring that the next generations of researchers work ethically and inclusively;
- … Acting BA now has policies in anti-racism and a mentoring scheme by Black alumni, and has increased its offer to over 35% on the BA Acting course to students of colour for the 2021/2022 academic year, a jump from the 3%–7% pre-2020 – significant for a subject area that remains largely white and middle-class (Tan 2021). Department staff have stated that these outcomes are a result of the Common Room.
Following on from the Common Room, I formalised my roles as Departmental EDI co-lead and Faculty EDI member, in a role shared with lecturer Dr Hannah Singleton. (Co-leadership is a key EDI feature – see the Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network, a Network that I founded and invited #MagicCarpet participant Dr Ranjita Dhital to co-chair. I will discuss in an article in the near future). I am also Advisory Board member of the proposed Research Centre for the Study of Race and Racism (all since 2021). Highlights of these EDI roles include:
- … Scaling up Common Room practice by holding Open Meetings for staff and students, inviting colleagues from Wellbeing and Pastoral Support, SU and more to share resources;
- … Holding smaller meetings and consultations with staff, students, prospective disabled students, and gathering retrospective feedback from minoritised alumni on mitigating barriers;
- … Production of the EDI newsletter distributed to staff and students, featuring EDI champions and artworks by global majority students;
- … Curation of the regular University-wide anti-racism reading group. Attended by professional and academic staff, and students. Emphasis on non-academic books and poetry to widen discourse and understanding on creative approaches in unpacking anti-racism;
- … Curation of public-facing Festivals and activities. An example was the Department’s EDI Festival in May 2021, which included activities in collaboration with REAP, Holden Gallery, Bunker Talks, and the Student Union;
- … Curation of Manchester Met’s first ever intersectional LGBTQIA+ history month Festival His/Her/Their Stories February 2021. Showcasing students’ art and led by lecturer Chester Tenneson this attracted >70 participants. The event extends the Common Room model, and exemplifies how art and culture can open up powerful teaching/learning spaces to understand protected characteristics and intersectionality. The learning and teaching resources created for all (see Padlets here and here), and subsequent efforts, have been widely praised by participants. The quality, visibility and momentum of such efforts have created lasting impacts to participants, and have the potential to catalyse further structural changes.
These efforts are raising awareness of EDI within and beyond the Department. Impacts and ongoing commitments include:
- … EDI is now a standing item at Departmental Management Group meetings;
- … Fine Art, Acting and Drama and Contemporary Performance now have their own EDI staff and student reps, and EDI policies – EDI uptake improved to 2nd highest in Faculty;
- … Contextual Practice, Acting and Fine Art have made changes to decolonise curricula;
- … Ongoing help to ensure EDI within University practices, as I) panel member for National Teaching Fellowship alongside PVC Education, II) recruitment panel interviewer of the Director of Manchester School of Art and III) new Head of Department of Art and Performance
- Manchester Met EDI award nomination (2021);
- Completion of Aurora Leadership programme (2021);
- E&D’s invitation to apply for StellarHE (executive development for diverse HE leaders (2022);
- Nomination for the Diversity Network Award by Inclusive Companies (2022).
Top: Common Room banner. Above: Colourful and busy diagram illustrating the genesis of PAC@75, REAP and other EDI efforts through the Common Room.