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Ruskin Statement on Racism

As individuals and as an institution, we recognise that we are part of a complicated system of racism. We commit to addressing systemic racism within the Ruskin through an ongoing series of actions. It has taken us one year to arrive at our firm commitments to structural and cultural change and to devise an action plan to see these through.

The Ruskin’s anti-racist commitments and related action plan were developed by the Ruskin Anti-racist Action Group, comprising half student representatives and half senior staff members.

 

 

Commitment 1

  • To keep this School’s anti-racist agenda as a primary focus of its strategic thinking, practical development and ongoing communication, consultation, and review processes. This entails working collectively to arrive at a working definition and shared understanding of ‘race’ and ‘racism’ for the purposes of this agenda. This further entails broadening the equalities agenda beyond race to encompass class, gender, Queer and ableism, with particular attention to intersectionality. In doing so, the Ruskin commits to promoting a culture of fairness, care, courtesy, and respect for everyone in the School.

Actions:

  1. Establish an E&D Committee in the Ruskin with regular meetings, communication streams and an annual review strategy. The work of the Anti-racist Action Group will continue within this framework, this work ultimately expanding to encompass class, gender, Queer and ableism, with particular attention to intersectionality.
  2. Organise a series of seminars in academic year 2021-22 critically analysing and discussing ‘race’ and ‘racism’ (MT 2021), ‘intersectionality’ (HT 2022) and ‘ecology’ (TT 2021) as well as their inter-relationship.
  3. Apply for a grant (25 June, Diversity Fund; early October, John Fell fund) to research the history of the Ruskin in light of its 150 year anniversary and specifically taking into account an historical critique of the University of Oxford’s contributions to colonialism and the triangular slave trade. The findings of this research will inform a public debate about the School
  4. Hold a symposium in Michaelmas Term 2022 on ‘The Institutional Imaginary – The Future of an Anti-racist Art School’ as part of the Ruskin 150.
  5. Seek funds to pay students and staff for their work on anti-racism initiatives wherever possible.



Commitment 2

  • To generate new artistic, critical and pedagogic practices that bring about a root change of thought, extending this into the wider educational system. This commitment means learning from people of colour, Queer and feminist histories, practices and narratives; interrogating and challenging the legacies of racism, imperialism and colonialism; developing a more global artistic and geopolitical perspective; and cultivating an anti-racist pedagogical ethos predicated on the non-hierarchical and reciprocal relationship between tutor and tutee.

Actions

  1. Encourage staff to apply to University resources for research projects relating to pedagogy and race/equality issues.
  2. Continue to involve students in the selection of visiting speakers.
  3. Review and incorporate best practice for seminar facilitation (BFA, MFA and DPhil level) to ensure that a diversity of perspectives is drawn out in relation to texts and conversation. (This can also be part of staff training, see below.)
  4. Encourage staff to seamlessly incorporate artists and thinkers of colour, anti-racist literature, histories of racism and colonialism, feminism and queer perspectives, into their teaching. (This can also be part of staff training, see below.)
  5. Devise and run a ‘strongly encouraged’ short course covering the residual impact of colonialism and migration on modern art practices, from stereotyping to institutional practices. (This course may be an extension or variation of the Unlearning Whiteness course currently part of the Year 2 history and theory provision.)

 

Commitment 3

  • To cultivate a supportive academic environment for all students, and particularly for students of colour, through: fostering a culture of shared responsibility and allyship; working with and encouraging both students and staff to develop communities of care; making sure that both students and staff can be supported in contending with microaggressions as well as more overt forms of racism; consulting with students about how best to provide safe spaces where students of colour can speak about their experiences, feel heard and be supported.

Actions

  1. Develop and integrate a Shared Learning Agreement into the School’s teaching and learning spaces and activities.
  2. Work with Humanities Division to hire a welfare officer specifically for students of colour who can work both within the Ruskin and across Faculties within the Humanities Division.
  3. In consultation with students, develop safe spaces where students of colour across programmes can speak about and share their experiences, feel heard and be supported.
  4. In consultation with students, develop spaces of solidarity and allyship for all students, including discussion groups, reading groups, small workshops, etc.
  5. Continue information gathering and undertaking review processes about the experiences of students and staff of colour: monitoring attainment gaps, if any; completing exit interviews; organising surveys, including anonymous surveys.


 

Commitment 4

  • To acknowledge the importance of supporting students of colour academically and pastorally by seeking targeted funds to increase the diversity of academic staff, professional staff, and workshop staff at all levels; continuing to diversify the range of visiting artists, visiting tutors and visiting speakers; ensuring that the policy and procedures for staff recruitment and visitor invites are fair and transparent.

Actions

  1. Work with the Development Team in the Humanities Division to endow a permanent post in the School, thereby opening up the potential to hire more permanent academic staff, with the commitment to continue to diversify the permanent staff body.
  2. Increase contracts of part-time permanent staff members so that these staff members can take on, or more readily undertake, key leadership roles in the School.
  3. Work towards further diversity of Visiting Tutors.
  4. Continue to invite diverse Visiting Speakers and, alongside this, continue to broaden the format of teaching that accompanies each invite.
  5. Seek funds for an Artist in Residence, with a commitment to diversity.

 

Commitment 5

  • To continue to draw on internal and external expertise to facilitate anti-racist training and to support both staff and students; further, to hold regular meetings to discuss anti-racist practice and areas needing support and to explore how best to integrate anti-racist training into student orientation sessions, core course curriculum and pedagogy.

Actions

  1. Work with Humanities Division to ensure that there is external, professional unconscious bias training in place for both students and staff, in place for academic year 2021-22. This may involve a partnership with an external organisation and should be different, as appropriate, for white staff and students and students and staff of colour.
  2. Re-develop the student orientation sessions at the start of each year to ensure that there is a more thorough introduction to incoming students about the School and how it operates; to introduce students to the School’s anti-racist process and practices; to inform students about support structures in place; to introduce the Shared Learning Agreement and any discussions around language and vocabulary as well as about how to challenge inappropriate comments around race and other equality issues, and what kinds of support structures are in place to help with this. Some of this may involve external facilitation.
  3. Develop a staff orientation session at the start of each year that considers: how best to integrate the Shared Learning Agreement into learning and teaching; best practice in seminars and group environments to ensure a diversity of voices are heard; issues to do with language and vocabulary; how best to integrate artists and thinkers of colour into teaching;how to be sensitive to the relationship between ‘race’ and art practice (e.g. challenge expectations that students of colour only produce work about their culture; challenge assumptions that the inclusion of a person of colour in an artwork is a ‘political statement’). This may involve external facilitation.

 

Commitment 6

  • To communicate clearly, through text and visual means, the structure and process for reporting racial incidents and experiences of inequality or discrimination – extending this to reporting sexist, homophobic, ableist and transphobic actions; and, in consultation with students and staff, to establish clear accountability procedures (systems that evidence how feedback is being listened to and acted on) with the aim of supporting transparency and building trust.

Actions

  1. Communicate, both visually and verbally, existing complaints processes. Provide a visual diagram of the structure and process for reporting; provide information about and what the officers do, including confidential advice, and including what powers they have and what change could come about from reporting any incident. Incorporate this into orientation sessions.
  2. Review the current harassment officers in the School and within the wider University and their role to ensure that appropriate support for harassment is in place for both students and staff.
  3. Establish accountability procedures – systems that evidence how feedback is being listened to and acted upon. This can be part of the operations of the Equality and Diversity Committee.
  4. Advocate to the Humanities Division that a dedicated Equality and Diversity Officer is needed with clear commitment to strategic initiatives for curriculum development, increasing staff diversity and student welfare.

 

Commitment 7

  • To open and engage with the wider environment in Oxford and beyond by collaborating and sharing best practice with other Faculties and Departments in the University; to open up the Visiting Speakers series to a wider public; to collaborate with local arts organisations and other grassroots organisations to share and exchange knowledge, practices and spaces.

Actions

  1. Post the new anti-racism statement, commitments and action plan on the website. Post the anti-racism statement and commitments on the entrance of each building.
  2. Encourage Oriel College to remove the Rhodes statue as soon as possible; develop a response specifically to their recent decision not to take it down, potentially through artwork and other artistic strategies.
  3. To continue to work with local arts organisations to consider space sharing, particularly performance and studio space.
  4. Open the Visiting Speakers series to a wider public and including more local art collectives and artists in the programme.
  5. In consultation with community organisations, apply for funding to support partnerships and initiatives.
  6. Support students and staff who would like to host meetings and gatherings of radical political and socially-engaged arts organisations on-site at the Ruskin, or on the Ruskin Zoom platform.
  7. Share best anti-racist practice with other Faculties in the Humanities Division (e.g. sharing a link to website statement, commitments and actions; through a seminar or meeting with Faculty Board Chairs and student reps across the Division).

 

Commitment 8

  • To make the Ruskin an accessible space for prospective students of colour by: developing initiatives for outreach and access that focus on deep and wide engagement; continuing actively to seek out scholarship and funding opportunities; supporting student and staff initiatives that make the work of artists and thinkers of colour more visible within the context of the Ruskin; ensuring that the School’s publicity, social media presence and outward communication present the Ruskin as working towards an inclusive space for the Ruskin community.

Actions

  1. Continue to work with the Development Team to seek funding opportunities and scholarships for students of colour and other under-represented groups.
  2. Consult with current students to determine best practice for opening up admission process for prospective students of colour, looking in particular at the admissions and interview process to see if it reflects what students need.
  3. Alter the website to demonstrate that the Ruskin is working to become a more welcoming and accessible space for students of colour, including student perspectives.
  4. Work actively to change the promotion of the School for admissions purposes, reaching out to foundation programmes, sixth forms and state schools to change perceptions of the Ruskin and make it less ‘scary’.

 

Please click here for our Ongoing Documentation of Process.