Jere Foote is running to be UoN’s Students’ Union BME Officer for the 2020/21 academic year. Impact caught up with Jere to ask her a few questions.
Why do you want to be the BME Officer? What are your motivations?
When nominating myself for the role of BME Officer it was not one that I took lightly. Recognising the significance of the role to all BAME students, and the impact I could have on creating a change, it was something I was so passionate about that I wanted to take it on. Having experienced first-hand the struggles and difficulties we all face, I wanted to be in a role to help all students who may face the same.
The legal profession has always been something I wanted to pursue, having studied law at GCSE, A-level and now as a degree. I had always been brought up to believe that I can achieve anything I wanted to, as long as I was willing to put the hard work and dedication necessary. However, at the age of 16 I was told that ‘black people can’t be lawyers’ and has been something that has stuck with me to this very day. Being told I couldn’t achieve something due to the colour of my skin was a thought that discussed me, and made my determination be successful even stronger. My motivation for being BME Officer is to ensure every student regardless of their colour, race and nationality feel they are capable of achieving whatever they put their mind to.
Despite this, I still recognise the difficulties still prevalent, and therefore has motivated me to want to create various skills workshops, helping the employability of members of the network. Through introducing events centred around increasing many transferable skills that employers look for, I hope to aid students in their journey to their future careers.
What, in your eyes, are the current problems?
One current problem I feel that many BME students face today is the disparity between ethnic minority graduates and white graduates, in regard to gaining employment after their academic studies. The Chambers students reported that an average of only 16% of those from ethnic minority backgrounds entered into a trainee solicitor position in 2019. In that same year over 1.2 million people gained employment with the NHS, with a staggering amount of 79.2% (4 out of 5 people) from White backgrounds. From someone aspiring to enter into the legal profession, these figures are heart-breaking to hear. However, this is something I hope to change. Through the introduction of the alumni event within the BME network, I hope to give students an opportunity to meet new people, allowing them to network and break into their chosen profession. Furthermore, with developing more skills workshops I hope to increase the transferable skills of students, giving them an advantage over their peers. Through this, I hope to make a small change in the difference of BME students gaining employment after university.
Another significant problem I feel is prevalent amongst the BME community is the number of hate crimes seen amongst society, most recently with that of Ahmaud Arbery. Despite this not being a problem within a academic nature, I feel this is an important issue to discuss due to deeply affecting myself and other BME students of the university. To say that I hope to end racial crimes through being BME Officer is an impossible claim however, if elected I would ensure to bring awareness to these issues not only throughout the BME network, but through the university as a whole. Alongside creating impactful campaigns around Black History Month and Islamophobia Awareness Month, I want to allow others to learn more about the various cultures that make up our diverse society.
In your campaign, you have mentioned a buddy system for first year students. How will this be carried out? In what way will this aid BME students in the community?
The transition to university can be a very daunting experience. For me, moving to university I constantly asked myself ‘are there going to be others like me’, and was one of the main factors in deciding where I chose to study. I know this is a thought that goes through many students of ethnic minority backgrounds minds, therefore by implementing a buddy system through the BME network, I hoped to relieve these worries. Knowing you have students who you feel you can relate, and feel comfortable with is an important aspect is settling into university life.
To carry this out, I aim to contact students of the BME network progressing onto their next year about the buddy system, and this great opportunity to help new students of the university. I also hope to reach out to a variety of students, from different races, backgrounds, subjects and genders to ensure to we have a diverse range of buddies available. To ensure this I hope to make connections with various societies such as ACS, the Asian society, the Palestine Society and many more. Throughout welcome week and freshers fair I want to reach out too many students as possible, making them aware of the network, our aims, and the ways in which we hope to help, one of which being the buddy system. An initial social event will be held whereby all buddies are able to meet one another and new students, all having an opportunity to form new friendships. Following this, I hope that all students would have made a great connection to stay in touch with one another, however monthly reminders will be given to buddies encouraging them to reach out to students.
“One current problem many BME students face today is the disparity between ethnic minority graduates and white graduates, in regard to gaining employment after their academic studies.”
Despite positive action for minority groups, there is a growing sense of BME identity being under-represented in mainstream university life. University UK and National Union Schools announced that there is an attainment gap of 13% between white UK students and BME UK students. Since July 2017, the University of Nottingham have been operating a BME Attainment Gap Initiative, in which they have implemented measures to help address Nottingham specific issues. What are you proposing to do to further aid BME students at the university to achieve more?
The attainment gap is an issue I am passionate about resolving and was an objective throughout my manifesto to tackle. To resolve this, I firstly aim to work closely with the Education Officer in order to recognise factors influencing BME students achieving top degrees, and working to find a solution.
One of the mechanism I wish to adopt to help students is regular support and welfare sessions. The stress of university can often take a toll on students, thereby affected their students, therefore is something I wish to support them with. With working with the welfare network, I hope to ensure students as supported as best as they can. In my manifesto I highlighted wanted to act as a support system for students, and by having an open ear I wish to do just that.
Furthermore, I am to work closely with the university and the Education Officer to support the Attainment gap Initiative, asking students how they feel they can be benefited, and feeding back their views to the university.
“The attainment gap is an issue I am passionate about resolving and was an objective throughout my manifesto to tackle.”
Voting in the 2020 SU Election closes at 3pm on Monday 11th May.
Featured image courtesy of Nina Sasha.
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