Below is a letter addressed to Vice Chancellor David Eastwood from BEM students regarding the proposed redundancy of Dr. José Lingna Nafafé.
Following the recent news that the College of Social Sciences is proposing that Dr. José Lingna Nafafé be made redundant, as Black and Minority Ethnic students we are sending this open letter to express our concern and anger over this potential redundancy.
As BME students at the University of Birmingham, and active members of BME led and related associations, groups and campaigns, we would like to express our discontent over the lack of an equal and diverse environment. Collectively, we believe that many of the issues faced by BME students on an academic and social level are largely attributable to the lack of BME representation within various departments. Dr. José Lingna Nafafé has not only served as an inspirational lecturer and academic, but a source of empowerment in an institution which many of us have felt isolated, marginalised and rejected from.
There have been a number of reports which point to the lack of staff representation as having a largely negative effect on attainment and overall integration within HE institutions. José has helped numerous students feel valued and that their input is relevant because their position is equal to that of their White counterparts. Even for students who have not had the privilege of undertaking a module he leads, his physical presence and eagerness to interact with all students has proven that he is invaluable. Furthermore, his approachable character has allowed us to share our concerns and seek guidance from him when we could not find comfort from the other services available.
For many of us, particularly home students who know the city of Birmingham to be a diverse and multicultural space, the university served as a culture shock. If José was no longer a part of the university staff, this would further emphasise the University’s disinterest in equal opportunities and again, representation. This would also further hinder the University’s reputation regarding a diverse teaching staff (a recent mention includes the Guardian’s ‘14,000 British professors – but only 50 are black’ where it was stated that ‘Only the University of Birmingham has more than two black British professors’). It would be a catastrophic loss for BME freshers who are likely to face similar trials and feelings of isolation, or even overt forms of racism. Dr. Nafafé’s application of a zero tolerance policy has allowed his classrooms to feel like safe spaces in which to engage, and for some of us this was a rarity given that university staff had not taken action when students were confronted with varying forms of racism in the past.
If the University of Birmingham is committed to its students, then having Dr. Nafafé remain as a member of the teaching staff will truly emphasise this. His approaches to teaching, values and dedication to ALL students are no secret, and should be commended. Therefore, we collectively request that you recognise this and believe in the application of equal representation for BME students.
We individually believe that Dr. Nafafé has changed our lives and inspired an academic passion which would have otherwise resulted in either leaving the University or attaining lower class degrees.
Hear our Voice.
Sacha Hassan, Undergraduate, Ethnic Minorities Officer elect, and NUS Black Students’ Committee
Malia Bouattia, Postgraduate Former Guild Councillor, and NUS Black Students’ Committee
Bashir Osman, Undergraduate (Civil Engineering), President of UoB Islamic Society
Anisa Ather, Undergraduate (English Literature and Creative Writing), UoB Islamic Society Committee
Akil Henry, Undergraduate (Maths and Music), BEMA Vice Chair
Shaima Saif, Postgraduate (MA International relations: Political violence and terrorism), Guild Councillor
Azfar Shafi, Undergraduate (Psychology), BEMA Guild Councillor
Areeq Chowdhury, Undergraduate (Economics and Political Science), BEMA Chair
Mma Yeebo-Agoe, Undergraduate (Psychology), former BEMA Guild Councillor
Halima Sayed, Graduate (African Studies with Development), MA University of Warwick
Sundeep Kaur Johal, Graduate (Media, Culture and Society), MSc student University of Oxford
Bethany Jean Conroy, Graduate (Culture, Society and Communication)
Libby Roberts, Graduate (Media, Culture and Society)
Sophie Hickman, Graduate (Media, Culture and Society)
John Narayan, Graduate, PHD student University of Nottingham
Sarah, Undergraduate (West African Studies)
Runako Celina Bernard Stevenson, Undergraduate (Modern Languages)
Yoanna Okwesa, Graduate (Culture, Society and Communication), MA London College of Fashion
Dr Kehinde Andrews,
Nicole Samuda,, Postgraduate (PHD)
Kanja Sesay, NUS Black Students Officer