Arooj Sultan, BA Economics & Politics
The role of a Black Student’s Officer is now in the process of being created after the motion petitioning for it passed in the UGM on the 27 February. The petitioners rationale behind the motion was that at present there is a lack of recognition of the unique issues faced by black students at SOAS, thus there is a need for a representative who can both understand and deal, specifically, with those issues. The motion details the numerous ways Black students face racism and discrimination at SOAS, ranging from daily micro-aggressions committed by faculty and fellow students to being penalised for their incorporation of Black and non-European thinkers in their work. The petitioners state that Black students face a particular form of marginalisation. This discrimination, they believe, combined with the accompanying lack of support forces Black students away from their studies in order to advocate for fair treatment. As a result, their academic career and their mental wellbeing are unfairly compromised. Hence, there is an urgent need for a Black Student’s Officer in the Student Union, or a Black Pastoral Coordinator, by 2020.
There is a lack of recognition of the unique issues faced by black students at SOAS, thus there is a need for a representative who can both understand and deal, specifically, with those issues
At the UGM, the petitioners explained the role in summary and clarified that the institution of such a role does not absolve the other SU officers from dealing with the concerns of Black students as well, just that the Black Student’s officer would be the first point of contact for any issues that pertain only to the Black community at SOAS. SOAS presently has POC Officers and an Anti-Racism Officer, but the petitioners believe that Black students issues often get subsumed within other roles and movements and thus are not adequately addressed. During the course of the meeting, there was some debate over which students are included within the definition of Black, used within the motion. The petitioners clarified that if one is of Black African ancestry or the Black diaspora and self-identifies as Black, then they are covered under the umbrella of the role. However, an important distinction was made to state that the role is for those who identify as Black and not those that self-identify as politically Black. Furthermore, in the event the school chooses to not to hire a Black Pastoral Coordinator and instead creates a position in the SU, an amendment was passed to state that those able to run and vote for the role would have to be from within the Black community. This is because the role will exist only to address the concerns of Black SOASians. Though this does not restrict Black students to only being able to run for this role, they are still free to be able to run for other representative positions as well.
This is not the first time that a new role has been created within the SOAS SU. Three years ago the role of Co-President for Equality and Liberation was added to the SU, and after an initial phase that proved the necessity of the role, it was made permanent. Many students want to see the permanent establishment of the Black Student’s Officer role in the same way.