On the 26th October, Leeds University Union held a “Why Is My Curriculum White?” forum, discussing a lack of diversity in the University Curriculum.
On the panel for the forum were: Richard Tavernier, a member of University of Leeds academic staff; Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students Officer; Remi Joseph-Salisbury, a PhD candidate and seminar tutor at the University of Leeds; and Say Burgin, a Lecturer in American History.
The event is following the nationwide movement, founded at University College of London, in which universities are challenging the ‘whiteness’ of their curriculum, demanding that it is as diverse as the national population which they are teaching.
With the demographics of the nation changing, the campaign looks to change the curriculum in line with this, challenging the ‘Eurocentric’ approach that university and school curriculums have, usually focusing on ‘Western, White Males’.
The forum was not simply looking to challenge the curriculum that we have taught to the student body, but also those that are teaching it to us. With education institutions acting as a mirror to societal expectations, the forum challenged the lack of diversity within academic staff, pointing to a lack of professors from minority groups – “both our curriculum and our professors need to be more reflective of multicultural Leeds, and multicultural Britain.”
Our Education Officer, Melissa Owusu, who organised the event was “extremely pleased with the event, [it’s] incredible to see over 500 people gathered to speak about the curriculum. This has hopefully opened a lot of minds to a key aspect of the education system that is far too often overlooked, and hopefully the University will take a diverse curriculum seriously when we present the findings. If anyone would like to discuss this further or has ideas for going ahead, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
A University spokesperson said: “The University works closely in partnership with students and our Equality and Inclusion Strategy specifically states that one of our major priorities and objectives is to ‘Ensure a world-class student experience through inclusion and academic excellence’. We undertake a wide range of activities in this area, including liaising with student course representatives to consult on any issues associated with course and curriculum content.
The University fully expects staff to talk to students and discuss their questions about curriculum content in relevant meetings. Indeed, one of the ‘core programme threads’ that we have been embedding through all our undergraduate programmes is ‘global and cultural insight’.
“Our Equality and Inclusion Committee (E&IC) is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and includes representatives from Leeds University Union (LUU) who have raised awareness of the NUS ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ campaign.
The University’s Inclusivity Strategy Group – which reports to the E&IC – has invited LUU to present and summarise the findings, evidence, discussions and developments across the University related to this campaign. In the meantime, we will continue to look for opportunities to further improve academic excellence and inclusiveness here at the University.”