Blog: The Equality and Human Rights Commission Working Group

In this blog Professor Fiona Beveridge, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and Cilla Ankrah Lucas, a member of University’s Council, outline the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Working Group.

Following the Vice-Chancellor’s open letter in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing global Black Lives Matters protests last week, we wanted to provide an update on some of the University’s work to address the issues relating to racial harassment.

Our work responds to the very concerning findings of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report on racial harassment at universities, published in October last year. The report details experiences of racial harassment on campuses across the UK.  In sum, it notes harassment of this kind is more prevalent than we are currently aware and mechanisms to respond to it have been inadequate across the sector.

As a result, Cilla and Carol Costello, Director of People and Places, agreed to lead an internal inquiry to hear more from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff and students about their experiences and to work together in developing measures to improve these and support achievement. Planning for the inquiry was progressing well pre-COVID-19, and as a result of Fiona’s blog in March, we have received a number of volunteers to be members of or facilitate focus groups. We are now exploring ways to re-start this work in the rather different circumstances in which we are now working.

In addition, Fiona was asked to chair a new EHRC Working Group, with membership from staff across the University and the Guild of Students, including the Staff BAME Network, which co-ordinates and monitors progress in our efforts to address racial harassment.

The EHRC Working Group’s work starts from the premise that being free from racial harassment is a foundational and crucial step toward building a more equitable campus for all of our members.  Racism has no place at our University, and we have a responsibility to provide effective reporting mechanisms, and build positive and supportive cultures on campus.

The Group has met four times and looked at the work in three phases:

  1. Understanding the nature of our current reporting processes and considering their effectiveness in capturing reports of racial harassment.
  2. Developing areas of inquiry which will be central to addressing issues of racial harassment on campus.
  3. Developing specific recommendations with clear responsibilities for leaders across our institution.

The group has then looked at three themes in line with the recommendations of the report:

  • Our reporting structures for racial harassment
  • Building a culture on campus which promotes racial equity
  • Maintaining transparency on how we can all positively contribute to a more equitable University community.

The Group now has an initial set of recommendations which we will discuss with the University’s senior leadership team, and our wider stakeholders.  We acknowledge that racism does not exist in a vacuum and we therefore believe it’s a crucial step to engage the wider Liverpool community in our work.

Our intention is to roll out the recommendations in the coming months as we seek to address some of the changes we believe to be necessary on campus.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Embedding, promoting, and supporting the roll out of a new racial and sexual harassment reporting tool “Report and Support” as a centralised point for reporting across the University. This should be more accessible than existing reporting tools, provide effective routes to redress, and provider rich data to support future interventions.
  • Revisiting the scope of disciplinary action for racial harassment, to ensure there are clear definitions, penalties and protections in place for victims.
  • Developing a specific module in induction which supports students to critically engage with their understanding of racial harassment and our expectations as a University.
  • Including content on racism in training for our student leaders and supporting them to be champions for this work. We recognise the important role that society leaders, course representatives and sports teams play in our campus culture.
  • Putting in place the necessary support for the Senior Leadership Team to be critical allies in this work. As this recommendation develops we are currently looking at how we embed accountability and support for this work.
  • Foregrounding this work by developing specific ways in which we recognise and reward leadership in issues of race equity.

The Working Group is now turning these ideas into specific plans of action.   These form part of our recommendations to date but there is further work around our curriculum, our history, and engagement with the wider Liverpool community we need to develop in the coming months.

The steps around reporting and education are in development now while the other work will be built in the coming months.  We will have a full plan in place and ready to go with significant progress by the new academic year.

The commitments in place will move us forward significantly from where we are today but we recognise there is more work to do.  If you wish to discuss this work further you can contact Fiona at The full membership of the Working Group is available here.