Dave Lewis: Why I’ll be attending NUS’ Race Matters Summit

Friday 19-02-2016 - 16:20

This is a guest blog from Dave Lewis, Director of Membership at LSE Students’ Union and Students’ Union University of the Arts London.

It is rare that I print anything out, but when something as fresh and challenging as Race Matters was published, it went straight to print, giving me a copy annotated, re-read, recommendations crossed through or queried, and an NUS Report that remains relevant for every management and leadership decision I have taken since. 

NUS’ work on the experiences of black staff in students’ unions should be one of those seminal moments for our movement. I am delighted the Summit it taking place, and I hope a significant number of students’ unions join us there. This is something we all need to work on together – we need more black staff in the movement, black staff need a better experience of working in our unions and only through exploring the challenges together, learning what others do will we make a difference.

Many know that LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) and Students’ Union, University of the Arts London (SUARTS) share a management structure, funded differently, with different strategic plans and contrasting activities. It allows us to learn every day from what works (or doesn’t!) in another students’ union, and share expertise and resources to make our work better.

An increasingly diverse staff and officer team, with a diverse number of students involved in our work makes us better. We know we can’t be all things to all people, but we can speak to different groups and deliver the different things that would make their lives better. 

At our two unions, from 1 January 2013 until 31 December 2015, there were 1,189 applicants for our permanent or fixed-term roles of which 25 per cent defined as BAME (n.=303). 38 per cent of shortlisted individuals defined as BAME (n.=48) of which 50 per cent of all new appointees over these three years were BAME (n.=16).

Since summer 2012, 25 per cent of the sabbatical officers of our two unions would define as black (n.=9).

This hasn’t happened by accident, but neither has it come easily. 

We have a number of processes around recruitment to reduce any unconscious bias or possibility of discrimination, we run projects throughout the year targeted at black students through our Empowerment Programme, and we’re prepared to fund projects for Black Students without plastering our logo all over it.

We’re rightly proud of our successful interventions but there is so much more we could, and should, do. 

The Race Matters Summit gives all of us the opportunity to reflect about where we currently are, and gives the space to students’ unions to think about what to do next. I need to know what you’re doing and how we can take that learning into our two unions.

But like you, we’ve got a limited amount of resource and time, and we want to do more, but what should we do? To what extent should our Strategy reflect this work? How much can we solve a problem that is societal? What is the experience of our black staff and what do they think we should change?

The Race Matters Summit on 3 March is the most important NUS event for people like me this Spring. I do hope you’re there.

Registration for Race Matters Summit is now open, and you can book your place here. For further information about the Race Matters Summit, please email Mandeep Rupra-Daine, NUS’ Equality & Diversity Consultant.



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