In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in the United States of America on 25 May 2020, all institutions have rightly been called to account for the slow progress in making change toward racial equality. We recognise this urgency in our own university and our subject. The contribution of Black voices to our culture and cultural histories remains under-represented and often misrepresented.
We realise that statements are not equivalent to action. Language and literature do not merely bear witness, they are implicated deeply in the ways in which systemic and structural racism has shaped, and continues to shape, our histories and our societies. There is much to be done within our institutions to dismantle structures that continue to dispense privilege and access on the basis of race, and to educate ourselves about racism’s insidious reach in the world. That labour is not the responsibility of our Black students and staff. It is one we are committed to addressing together.
For English studies, this involves rigorous and iterative reflection on the diaspora of the English language and of literatures in English in the past and present. It is important that diversifying and decolonising does not simply reassert the history of colonial expansion and the hegemony of English languages and literatures. We are working towards these ends: in the recruitment and retention of students and staff, in the development of the courses and curriculum we teach, in the research and scholarship we undertake, and in consultation with the different communities we serve. We will endeavour to do this faster and better.
"All literature written in English in the British Isles is densely entangled with other histories, cultures, and pathways of experience both within the country and far beyond. Its syllabuses, publishing practices, and our conversations about books must reflect this." —Professor Elleke Boehmer and Dr Erica Lombard, The Conversation, 2017, https://writersmakeworlds.com/writers/
List of Resources for Support in the University of Oxford
If you are a student, many departments and colleges have specific Tutors for Race who are available to talk to you. The Peer Support Programme runs a scheme for BAME students from across the University. Links to key sources of student support are listed below.
• Counselling and mental health
• Peer Support Programme
• College Support
• The Oxford Student Union
The University also takes very seriously any cases where staff or students feel they have been harassed or bullied due to their ethnicity or race. The English Faculty has harassment advisors but if you prefer to speak with an advisor unconnected with your faculty or college, you can contact our Harassment Line for an alternative advisor. If you are member of staff who is a member of a trade union, you may wish to contact them for support. Further information on the University’s response to harassment and bullying including support and advice can be found here:
• Harassment advice
• Harassment and conflict advice for students
• Responsible bystander intervention
The University offers several resources to help staff wellbeing, some of which are found on the Occupational Health Services wellbeing pages. The University also offers a free, confidential telephone counselling service through an external provider. Links to these resources are below:
• Employee wellbeing
• External counselling service
The University’s BME Staff Network is open to all staff who identify as BAME. Its email list also acts as a confidential discussion forum for BAME staff to discuss issues of mutual concern. Information about how you can join the network can be found through following the link below:
• BME Staff Network