This is perhaps the most important goal of the Task Force. A deceptively simple one, with real transformative potential. The work done over the last six months has been a microcosm of the energy, cultural humility and commitment to generative listening which will constitute cultural change in the university as a whole. It has also been a vivid reminder of how many new and different voices need to be part of the conversation, and of the imperative of making time to hear and debate critical challenges on an ongoing basis.
One of the first things we did as a group was to focus on language - to articulate and recognise its historical situatedness, its power to hurt and its history of doing so, as well as its capacity to enable us to develop as human beings. This is a fundamental aspect of the continuing conversation. It is difficult for an institution to plan for radical provisionality, but it needs to do so. We have summarised our discussions in this language and terminology paper (PDF).
Such open-ended debate about values and how we express them doesn’t just happen. It requires thought, time and (paradoxically) robust structures. The emphasis of the Task Force on giving greater force to the holistic and multivalent nature of the university is crucial. Conversations need to involve academic and professional services and support staff, current and former students, critical friends and hostile critics. Colleges, departments, the central university, networks and advisory groups must be brought into tighter engagement with each other. The responsibility of the university to model and communicate mutual respect needs serious attention. The building of trust - internally, locally within the city of Oxford, and internationally - underpins its future.
Most of all, the structural commitments need to create space and time - and enthusiasm - for informal interactions and trains of thought, for serendipitous encounters which could not have been scheduled, but which multiply connections. For openness to the stimulation (and self-reflection) provided by the cross-cultural and the inter-generational. For a target-free conversation which is not the opposite of action but its only effective impetus.
Take part in the Race Equality Task Force consultation
All staff and students can contribute to the Race Equality Task Force consultation, giving you the chance to feedback on proposed measures for tackling the under-representation of racial minorities at Oxford. You can either give your views on the overall priorities (which only takes a few minutes); or complete the full survey to provide more detailed input. You have until 1 December to take part.
The views in this blog are those of the individual and do not represent the unanimous view of all members of the Race Equality Task Force.