Students and representatives from Cambridge University and Goldsmiths University have launched a campaign to support those making complaints about racism and sexual misconduct. The grassroots campaign, named the Brave Space Collective, was officially launched at a panel event on June 8 with roughly 20 attendees.
Irfan Zaman is Head of Membership at the students’ union of Goldsmiths University in London. He started the Brave Space Collective in June 2021 after realizing that university processes to deal with students’ complaints of racism and sexual misconduct needed to improve.
Student representatives from the student unions at Cambridge and Goldsmiths Universities were at the launch event. They discussed the existing procedures for complaints and outlined their plans for reforming the ways that students taking complaints forward can be supported.
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Irfan said that he started the Brave Space Collective after seeing students’ experiences of making complaints of racism at Goldsmiths “on a fortnightly basis”. He said: “It was becoming apparent that something needed to be done.”
In 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission released a report on racial harassment in British universities. It found that a quarter of students surveyed from ethnic minority backgrounds had experienced racial harassment since starting at university.
Of these, two-thirds of the students did not report the harassment to their universities. Their reasons for not reporting the incidents included that they did not have confidence in their university to be able to address it.
Tara Choudhury, BME Officer at Cambridge University Students’ Union, said that students making complaints felt “extremely powerless”. She described the process as “sticking your neck out on the line and pushing back against the system”.
According to a press release, the Brave Space Collective has three main aims. The first aim is to “provide funded group support sessions with a qualified counselor to students considering or undergoing a complaint of racism or sexual violence at their university”.
A pilot scheme of the group support sessions has been in place since over the last few months. The therapist who leads the sessions works independently of any university.
The second aim of the Brave Space Collective is to “hold universities to account, pushing for a transformed complaints process that is transparent, trauma-informed, survivor-centered and delivers redress”. Finally, the campaign aims to “organize movement across universities to compel institutional change that prioritizes student safety and rights over institutional reputation and self-interest”.
Irfan said: “I hope that the Collective will bring different campaigns together. I think we are on track for at least 10 campuses by Christmas. ”
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