*Race*, Racism and Higher Education Leadership: How can we

Dr Gurnam Singh, Principal Lecturer in Social Work and
Dr Josephine Kwhali, Senior Lecturer in Social Work.
Coventry University
1st HERAG Think Tank, London 23rd June 2014
Sponsored by the HEA and ECU
Introduction: Is there a ‘ Black
Experience’ of Higher Education ?
Research Evidence
For many universities, BME’s generally but Black people in
particular are typecast as heroes (special) or villains
Those who break through the ‘glass roof’ face the prospect
of falling back down i.e. face hostility and resentment.
Others simply settle for something less fearful of being shot
Universities are changing, but only significantly at the
Colonial relations, white power and white privilege are
Nepotism, despite equality and diversity law’s and policies is
rampant, particularly in relation to senior appointments.
RAE, REF, NTF and the political economy of research funding
contributing to the problem, as they reinforce existing power
James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) Lift Every Voice and Sing, stanza 2 (1900)
A continued focus on BME recruitment as a ‘ equality
numbers game’ potentially entrenches racism and sexism
and dislocates black intellectual leadership from the
struggle for positive racial change .
It may benefit the individual and the HE institution but of
itself does little for black and womanist advancement and
a racialised intellectual discourse
Cornel West (Race Matters 1994) locates ‘ Black Leadership’
with a the need for a clear and credible sense of political
struggle without which the perpetuation of white norms,
knowledge and world views dominate
Mohatny (1991) suggests that black academics simply become
part of the colonisation process as their work has to accord
with white academic tradition
Erskine ( 2008) speaks of the challenge of black people finding
space within the academy to ‘ think black’ .
Remove the focus from the pursuit
of a job, promotion, status
Increase the focus on the pursuit of
racial and gender integrity and
black intellectual engagement
What curtails or limits black
advancement ?
Dialogue ( Gurnam and Josephine – five
minutes ) - as I finish you then come in Gurnam ,
asking a question arising from what I’ve said (especially
the last couple of points I’ll conclude with ). We dialogue
for 3-4 minutes with question/ responses around the
issues of black discourse, the pressure to conform, the
dislocation in recent years between the personal and the
political, taking us in to a final point about the nature of
HE responses – which then leads on to your final power
point slide.
In what ways do existing managerial approaches in HE
respond to equality and diversity policy requirements – what
needs to change ?
Current approaches are defensive, reactive, project based and low
Establish ‘quota systems’ or certainly affirmative action policies?
Ensure existing and new pathways into leadership roles are equitable
e.g. University and National accolades such as NTF
Delivering on equality should be a key element of performance review
and reward for senior managers in HE
Develop generous scholarship schemes for young black students
Develop mentoring programme for black academics that are linked to
management development programmes.
Disassociate blackness with low quality and under achievement – in
our minds, instructional culture and organisation structures.
League tables on equality indicators including BME leadership roles.
Introduce financial penalties for institutions that fail to meet equality
Take a lead from the US - Introduce Black Studies programmes
What do we as Black people need
to reclaim ?
If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we
accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those
responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they
have our acceptance and concurrence.We should, therefore,
protest openly about everything that smacks of
discrimination or slander.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
"Certain Unalienable Rights," What the Negro Wants, edited by
Rayford W. Logan (1944)
Open Discussion
15 minutes
Structure will depend on size of the
group and space etc.

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