What do you do if your college assignments are due and you haven’t done them?
And what do you do if you’re suffering from “racial trauma”?
At Goldsmiths, University of London, the answer to both may be the same.
As reported by Newsweek, minority students at the public research school can now apply for exam and essay extensions if they’ve suffered said stress.
The addition to the school’s list of accepted circumstances comes courtesy of a students union proposal.
What might constitute “trauma”?
A 2016 report may provide some indication.
In October of that year, the school issued Insider-Outsider: The Role of Race in Shaping the Experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic Students.
The study measured experience across five areas:
- Decolonizing and Representation
- Racism and Microaggressions
- Race and Attainment
- Hate Crime Reporting and Student Mental Health
Participants said the curriculum was for whites:
Over 80% of students reported that their courses were representative of the white experience, achievements and works, whilst only 28% believed that their course content is representative of BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) experiences. As a result, only 27% felt represented by their courses. …
Not only did 74% of students believe that their course is rooted in Eurocentrism, 40% believed that they must conform to their lecturer’s academic opinions in order to secure good grades. This highlighted the strategic processes that BME students deploy to overcome racial barriers in attainment.
It’s all about being racially represented:
[W]hite students are able to enter higher education with a higher degree of representation from staffing to curriculum, spanning as wide as the Students’ Union. Where scarcely half of BME respondents believed that Goldsmiths Students’ Union prioritises race equality and the needs of BME students.
Black and minority students suffer without black and minority role models:
The lack of relatable role models in a variety of roles within the institution can have a detrimental effect on the BME student experience, in which they are not able to relate with people in positions of authority and seniority.
Twenty-six percent reported racism. One black female said she’d been “fetishized” and sexually harassed by a staff member because of her ethnicity.
As for “microaggressions,” the study presumed only nonwhites can be victims (it’s unclear as to whether that was also the case for racism).
The report defined microaggressions as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether international or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”
Nineteen percent of BME reported such.
It seems the “academic environment” stunk:
Respondents detailed entering a racial battleground in the classroom in which learning spaces became playgrounds for the exercising of racial microaggressions, covert forms of “othering” and the suppression of Black and brown voices.
In 2016, to be clear, the college was 45.5% BME.
Per Newsweek, that number rose to 48% last year.
The report indicated only 27% felt comfortable reporting microaggressions.
Perhaps not reporting them could cause trauma.
Hence, Sara Bafo — student union president — trumpeted the new exemption:
The Uni has agreed to our Sabbs’ proposal to include ‘racial trauma’ as a reason to defer essays for Black & PoC students through self-certification, not an evidence based approach. This is great news and a step in the right direction. Well done to those involved in discussions! pic.twitter.com/rGvvfGJX7R
— Goldsmiths SU (@GoldsmithsSU) June 17, 2021
Goldsmiths Warden Frances Corner issued a statement as well:
“This change relates to our extenuating circumstances policy which enables students to ask us to take into account serious life events when assessing their progress with their studies.”
Moving forward, hopefully, students can avoid the serious life events of covert othering.
But if they can’t, at least they can have more time to do their assignments.
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