This article includes two statements emanating from Newbold College of Higher Education. The first is a statement made by the Principal, Dr John Baildam, in the light of the killing of George Floyd:
The cruel, brutal and unacceptable death of George Floyd on 25 May has served as the springboard for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ response and reaction by countless thousands around the world. Although we are rightly proud of our own multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Newbold community, this gives us all pause for reflection. Do we always get things right, even on the modern-day Newbold campus? ‘Black Lives Matter’ serves as a timely catalyst as we seek to review our values and endeavour to strengthen our determination that our College will always be welcoming and open to all, regardless of race, colour, culture, tribe, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or (dis)ability – and that each individual student and employee will be treated as an equal member of the Newbold family. At the beginning of the past academic year, we all explored together Newbold’s IDEA- ‘Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, Awareness’- reminding our community that we will not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind. For months we have been grappling with the ramifications of COVID-19, and yet Raheem Sterling, the England and Manchester City striker, reminds us that “the only disease right now is the racism we are fighting”. As a staff, we had planned for training sessions on racial awareness during the past semester. Due to so many colleagues being furloughed over the last few weeks, we had to choose to reschedule these developmental initiatives until such time as everyone can learn and benefit from them. We have all been created in God’s image – but we are challenged once more to ask ourselves whether we recognise the image of God in another person whose ethnicity, whose culture, whose language, whose faith and whose ideals may be quite different from our own. If we do not, then we have made God in our own image rather than allowing Him to recreate us in His image. We at Newbold fully support the timely reminder that ‘Black Lives Matter’ and we pray for wisdom as we play our part in ensuring a united future.
After this statement was released, the College received a number of positive comments, but also some responses and reactions which led Dr Baildam and his senior leadership team of Mrs Abigail Wright (Chief Financial Officer) and Ms Serena Santona (Academic Registrar) to formulate a further statement of apology with an accompanying video. The text reads as follows:
Since the ‘Black Lives Matter’ statement which I made recently in the light of the killing of George Floyd, we have been shocked and disappointed to hear from current students, staff and alumni of unacceptable incidents of racism and discrimination at Newbold College of Higher Education. I am grateful to those of you who have so courageously and bravely taken the time to communicate your feelings of pain and hurt with us. This has been no easy thing to do. We have let you down, and we will strive to put things right.
The current watershed has given us all pause for ongoing thought as we reflect on your distress and suffering, which we wish to recognise openly and properly. While we cannot re-write our College’s history, together we can all help to shape its future. We acknowledge past and present wrongs perpetrated on racial grounds, while reiterating that racist or discriminatory behaviour is not in harmony with God’s ideal. We are sorry for all failures in this regard on the part of the College, and we ask for forgiveness for every heartache or anguish caused or felt.
Elie Wiesel stresses that “what hurts the victim the most is … the silence of the bystander”. We promise to ensure that black lives really do matter on our campus and we ask you to help us to make this an everyday reality. We have already called a meeting for next Monday of a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Audit and Strategy Panel. Chaired by our Chaplain, Pastor Alastair Agbaje, this group will comprise a number of students and staff. Now is the time for us to listen, and so – difficult though this may be – we ask you to find the strength to voice your experiences so that together we can find the practical solutions needed for change. There is a lot of work ahead of us all, but we are ready to change things for the better. Do look out for further initiatives, which will include a virtual open dialogue session.
As an ethnically and culturally diverse Senior Leadership Team ourselves, my colleagues Mrs Abigail Wright (Chief Financial Officer), Ms Serena Santona (Academic Registrar) and I, as Principal, are proud of the rich multi-ethnic and multi-national heritage of our College students and staff. We wish to serve as examples of justice and equality. We concur with Ellen White, who reminds us that “when the love of Christ is cherished in the heart … no difference will be made because of the colour of the skin”. Racism, prejudice and intolerance of any kind have no place here, and we are committed to working intentionally to eradicate any traces of such.
Newbold’s campus must be a safe and welcoming place for all, regardless of race, colour, culture, tribe, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability or ability.
We know that whatever we say may never be enough, but we thank you for giving us the chance to right any wrongs.
At the time of writing, the promised BAME Audit and Strategy Panel has met for three lengthy meetings. Members have included representation from staff and students who have shared examples of hurt and pain and who have devised a large number of proposals for the way forward. These have also been shared with all staff. The College is forming a standing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Panel to be chaired by an external EDI Consultant with appropriate student and staff membership. EDI staff training is planned for the first week of September, and policies and curricula are in the process of review to ensure that racist behaviours are eradicated from the campus. EDI awareness will also form part of the College’s induction processes for all students and staff.