OCA Commitment to Equality and Diversity
Our commitment to Equality and Diversity
About this document
This is a living document that will be shaped by the views, experiences and feedback we receive from the many different perspectives of our students, tutors and staff. We have fashioned this version based on conversations with the OCA student representative for Equality and Diversity and through dialogue with staff, tutors and students. As you read through the text, you may notice the gaps in our knowledge, and this points to the learning and listening we must undertake to enhance our commitment to equality and diversity. We are hosting a series of ‘listening sessions’ to help us in this. We want to shape our diversity plan together, a collegial approach, will help us understand your priorities, which in turn will become our institutional priorities to equality and diversity.
It is important that this is an actionable plan, that this is based on ‘lived experience’ and addresses the issues as understood by those experiencing them and that we consider and use the appropriate language to frame these discussions. It is difficult to describe plans in a way that works for all, therefore we want to hear where our narrative and description falls short of your expectations, or where you feel less able to identify with, contextualise or contribute to the plans.
Since its inception the Open College of the Arts has stood for open access to the creative arts, and alongside its sister organisations, National Extension College and Open University, it has promoted widening participation in higher education however, as the phenomenal and powerful show of global solidarity in the form of the recent Black Lives Matter protests has shown us, there is more work to do in terms of diversity and inclusivity. That is to say, here at OCA, by delivering on our ethos, we have been doing the work, but we could, should, and want to, do more. The Black Lives Matters protests have shone a spotlight on the need for fundamental and sustained change, and we all need to take a stand against structural inequality, in all aspects of society. This paper started to take shape during Black History Month, and in the context, we saw an opportunity to show solidarity with the protests and put forward our plans for change that extend beyond just a single month.
OCA are in the throes of reviewing curriculum to ensure diversity. As part of this process we are actively engaging with ‘lived experience’ as part of wider responsibility to dismantle privilege, power and Western – most specifically – Eurocentric views and visual regimes. Our commitment to this, within curriculum materials, is two fold: existing materials are being updated to incorporate a more diverse range of voices, exemplars, and cultural viewpoints; and we are ensuring our newly created course materials are accessible and relevant to all students. We have budget commitment to this, and the work is already in progress. We will keep you updated, through course specific blogs, forums posts and other means about the changes you can expect to see. There is a shared expectation across our staff and tutor body that inclusive teaching practice is owned as a central principle and that all staff and tutors will bring useful perspectives to the course materials. Or to put this another way, we will not make our Black, Asian or colleagues from Minority Ethnic or wider cultural groups or communities with protected characteristics, carry the labour for us at this time, the onus is on everyone to listen, learn and respond.
In parallel to our curriculum review, learning, teaching, and assessment practices have been evolving to create more student centred approaches in order to create learning spaces that are more open. Group work has provided opportunities for debate and discussion, and within our course activities, there is greater emphasis on students contextualising content in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them. In making these changes, we are hoping to give students more control and involvement in how learning takes place. Through this ongoing process the curriculum can be challenged, unburdened, and re-established as more dynamic, to better reflect the diverse experiences of students involved. These approaches are being launched with OCA Learn and aim to create a stronger learning community for all students.
Externally, we are reaching out to organisations who focus on widening access to underrepresented communities, and finding ways to align our shared aims. For example, working with organisations such as Autograph to raise the profile of Black photographers to students, and to alert Black photographers of potential tutoring or course development opportunities at OCA.
At OCA we listen and learn, and we are committed to continue to listen and learn and improve. In particular we will work with the new OCA Student Association Representative for Diversity and Inclusion to listen and to learn what is most affecting our students from Black, Asian, ethic minorities, diverse cultural groups and from communities with protected characteristics as they study with OCA. We will use this to inform our future plans for better supporting those groups of students.
We recognise that everyone’s identity is layered, and rarely defined in singular ways. Alongside recognising and celebrating our diversities, we will work to ensure every member of the organisation can embrace and foster inclusivity in all aspects of their roles. OCA staff will be expected to undertake mandatory Unconscious Bias elearning training during this academic year. We will monitor and track this to ensure that all HQ staff undertake training by July 2021. We will bring OCA Tutors into this training by July 2022 and in turn offer further training, to sustain our commitment and support our tutors . In addition any OCA staff member involved in recruitment, marketing and assessment will be expected to undertake additional refresher training prior to undertaking those activities through the Unconscious Bias toolkit that is available through the UCA elearning portal and to apply the approaches in our work to ensure that recruitment, assessment and promotion demonstrate a desire to ensure equality, diversity and inclusivity. There is more we can do here through our listening and learning we will respond.
We are looking at, and revising, the language we use in recruitment and in our everyday communications, both internally and externally. We are enhancing images we use for recruitment and the places we choose to advertise and promote ourselves. The OCA is actively reaching out to hard to reach communities, promoting our values, and commitment to equality and diversity within everything we do. We are recruiting for wider representation of society. Ensuring we diversify our tutor pool and student body, bringing new ideas, perspectives and experiences to OCA, so we can learn from each other.
We will look at how we provide ‘safe spaces’ for groups and individuals, giving particular support for those that would most benefit from working with a mentor, buddy or someone to whom they can directly identify leading them on pathways to success, pairing up vulnerable students from minority backgrounds with peers who have been through similar experiences. We will make efforts to ensure that events and meetings include a diverse range of speakers and viewpoints and that we all benefit from each other’s ‘lived experiences’ of different cultural contexts that inform the work of students and tutors across OCA.
We will aim to increase diversity at every level of our organisation. Extending our group of trustees to more represent our students and the wider society within which we operate. Have trustees that are skilled in working with excluded committees and minorities. Exploring visiting professorships to bring in fresh views and perspectives and to provide constructive feedback and challenge. Employing our new value-led student representatives to assist us in outreach.
We will work to establish a crowdfunding approach to establish a range of subject specific funded and part funded scholarships for talented individuals from minority and/or excluded groups. We will work with our alumni and with recognised BAME role models to present and promote these awards. We will commit to provide as many scholarships as possible by agreeing to match the amount of external funding with internal funding.
Listening and understanding
OCA listen and learn and we want to hear what is most important to you that have not been covered elsewhere in this document.
Will you join us at our first listening session to help us further plan how we can push forward with diversity, equality and change at the OCA.
20th January 2021 at 2pm
Link will be available here 30 mins before the session starts….https://learn.oca.ac.uk/mod/zoom/view.php?id=9944&forceview=1
This document was authored by:
Will Woods, Christian Lloyd and Moira Lovell