An update from your BME Officer

Welcome to my first blogpost! It’s been over two months since I started my term as BME Officer - time has really flown by, and I’m excited for the year ahead.

The BME Officer position was created as a result of the referendum on whether to merge the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) and the Graduate Union (GU) - with the success of the referendum, Cambridge joined University College London as the only universities in the UK where BME students have dedicated full-time representation on the sabbatical officer team of their students’ union.

I campaigned in favour of this referendum and later ran for the BME Officer position because I wanted to facilitate community-building among the BME student population, bring BME students’ concerns and priorities to the forefront of the SU’s campaigning, and embed anti-racist activism in the institutional memory of the SU so that it’s not lost to the rapid rate of student turnover and burnout. The barriers to concrete change in a place such as Cambridge can seem too great to surmount, but I believe that collective organising and campaigning creates possibilities for long-lasting change. Full-time representation in the Students’ Union is a step towards this.

As the SU’s first full-time BME Officer, I want to establish robust relationships of collaboration between the SU, BME reps, and anti-racist activists from across the University and beyond, in order to strengthen existing channels of BME representation so that all BME students are supported and empowered to collectively stand up for the changes they want to see in their colleges, faculties, and the University. This includes organising training workshops for College J/MCR BME Officers to share guidance on best practices and holding regular forums where BME student reps can share skills and link up with each other and the BME Campaign.

Through coordination of BME student reps, I’ll be pushing for anti-racism training for student-facing staff, a discipline procedure which works for BME students, targeted mental health support for BME students, and action on the Black Awarding Gap - working towards a university where BME students are allowed to both survive and thrive.

I also want to link up student campaigners with community-based groups. Racism is an everyday reality for BME students outside of the University and Colleges, so it’s key that our campaigning is grounded and anchored in broader anti-racist activism whereby students see themselves as a part of the wider community.

And of course, there’s COVID-19. The SU sabbatical officer team will be working closely with student reps and staff unions to campaign for the Collegiate University to prioritise student-staff safety, wellbeing, and welfare in its approach to COVID-19. I’m especially keen to raise the concerns of BME and overseas students, who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 disruption.

I’m always keen to hear more from students about what I can do to support them, so please feel free to reach out to me by email or on my social media accounts. I’m very much looking forward to meeting you all, so until then, stay safe and enjoy your summer!