I am Amira. Your Guild President. So, when setting myself the task of writing my first blog post, I was keen to make sure I jumped right into content. However, I also wanted to ensure I introduced myself a little bit. So, I am going to talk a bit about the black awarding gap. And, anyone who has been to any of the earlier Black Voices events that we hosted, or who has worked for long periods of time with me will know how much I talk about it. But it’s important, and it is important to me.
When I came to university, I was more familiar with the term “black attainment gap”. I never problematised the bias it suggested; that black students were responsible for the gap between their grades and their white counterparts. I do now.
So, the black awarding gap pertains specifically to the proportion of students being awarded 2:1s or 1sts. At the University of Birmingham between academic year 2016/17 and 2020/21 the black awarding gap widened by 4.3%. In the same timeframe the Asian and mixed awarding gaps both narrowed by 2%. The awarding gap is only getting worse for black students and this was of paramount concern to the Guild President during the year that I joined the University of Birmingham (2020/21). For that President, there were multiple challenges faced by black students that needed to be addressed and were being addressed by her since the previous year when she was the elected Postgraduate Officer. This was achieved through the Black Voices campaign.
Now, I am comforted that Tobi (ex-Guild President and Postgraduate Officer) will be more than happy for me to state that Black Voices at this time was a priority campaign that functioned at a very senior level within the Guild, but unfortunately wasn’t being highly engaged with by students. I was a first year at the time, and I hosted some really interesting talks, but it wasn’t seeing much traction. That summer I received some training, we did some recruiting, and fast forward in the name of brevity, the Black Voices campaign is now student facing and seeing hundreds of students in our spaces.
During the time of its growth, I became employed to run the campaign, under the role titled the Black Voices Community Organiser. The role came with its challenges, and I saw multiple line managers during the time, but the support I received from my team and the Student Voice department was amazing. So amazing, that I was somehow convinced that maybe I could do even more in a different role. Maybe, If I were President, I could make even more change, not only for the black student community but other students.
And so, I ran to be President and boy did the team and my friends shout my name across campus. I chose not to put any of the Black Voices aims in my manifesto when I ran. If a black hairdresser came onto campus during my time as President that was not my win, that was a Black Voices win. If the Guild and the University adopted the #mynameis affiliation and placed their name pronunciations at the end of emails, that was a Black Voices win. If the Black Awarding Gap began to close. Well, that was a win for us all.
Ultimately, as your President I hope to do work on equity, affordability and transparency. During the Officer Elections I ran a campaign full of ideas, many of which I have already seen traction on and, as I get further into this role, I look forward to supporting our student population through any challenges that may arise. I have also had the chance to work with medical students, talk about workers’ rights with student staff, and I'm excited for the many more opportunities my term in office will hold. So, now more than anything I want to win your trust. And I want to keep it.