Blaming the victims

February 7, 2013

As an equality and diversity consultant of many years’ standing and chair of UK Investor in Equality and Diversity, I read your article on Leeds Metropolitan University academic Jacqueline Stevenson’s research with interest - and growing frustration (“Black students loath to seek aid”, News, 24 January).

My frustration stems from the fact that yet another piece of (limited) research has placed the responsibility for black and minority ethnic academic underachievement on the students themselves (in this case because they “were reluctant to consult lecturers”).

The research goes on to suggest that they are further complicit in this underachievement by, for example, “developing their own support networks”.

BME students reading the findings will be surprised to learn that they are unwilling to voice their concerns and that they act less strategically than their white counterparts.

As someone who has been an equality and diversity consultant supporting students, educators and others for 20 years, I have spent a great deal of time trying to counteract the damaging consequences (particularly to “emerging” BME students) of the type of headline comment coming out of Stevenson’s research. BME learners all too often find themselves trying to engage with lecturers and institutions that are largely indifferent to equality- and diversity-sensitive teaching and learning, and that recognise and value only “academic purity”.

The key responsibility for BME underachievement rests with the university sector’s inability to fully embed the Equality Act 2010 and public sector equality duties within their teaching, learning and management, coupled with a general lack of accountability on this issue. In my view, Stevenson’s research has missed an opportunity to really expose those responsible for BME student underachievement.

Anthony Wilkes
Managing director
Crystal Education and Training Consultants

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