CW: Human Rights abuses, discrimination.
Yesterday, Stuart James Taylor and Adam Satur stopped by Merchiston campus to see what was going on in the Great Big EDI Challenge, being run in the School of Arts & Creative Industries this trimester. Carolyn Scott and Kirsten MacLeod brought in a great mix of speakers to share their perspectives and experiences with students. This challenge will give a platform for students to enter pieces of coursework which focus on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, to be showcased and in the running to receive a prize, whether as an individual or part of a group project. Another session with different speakers takes place on Thursday 18th January 2024, 2-4pm in room E17 at our Merchiston Campus, focusing on decolonisation in the National Museum of Scotland, men’s health and Deaf awareness.
Clare MacGillivray of Making Rights Real talked about human rights and how diverse community groups of women activists have worked to “name and claim” their rights, drawing attention to injustices and work going on, including through bringing a production of the play SEVEN (about seven women who are activists) to The Scottish Parliament and a viral short film bringing international attention and funding to people in Leith whose council homes were full of damp and plumbing brought up sewage, leading residents to need to replace their clothes multiple times a year, and their health suffering. A common theme of the afternoon, mentioned first by Clare, was that #HumanRights Breaches and inequalities are not inevitable, and can be prevented. People build social movements which bring accountability and change. Clare provoked students (with the words of 13th Century Sufi poet Rumi) to “sell your cleverness; buy bewilderment.”
John Hails shared how late diagnosis of autism shone a light on creative practice as a method of exploring otherness in the world, when you are frequently told from childhood that “you’re doing it wrong” and how composition can express a minority perspective, a theme Carolyn returned to later. John discussed how not all pedagogical approaches support all students, some obstruct success as highlighted by the#SocialModel of disability, but again, this is not inevitable and Learning, Teaching & Assessment methods can empower students to shine.
Isla McIntosh (formerly of Glasgow Disability Alliance, now of The Poverty Alliance, “a network of organisations and individuals working together to end poverty”) added to the message of the importance of platforming the voices of affected people and placing them at the heart of work, standing up to stereotypes. Isla highlighted that affected people often have the answers to the problems they face and are not the cause, with the example of their community researchers who presented an MSP for Higher Education with their work and recommendations on asylum seekers’ access to education. Isla also gave the example of projects they have carried out where affected people use photographs to demonstrate their lived experience and barriers they face as a result of poverty, such as how the maximum level of universal credit available is below the base money needed to survive and is decreased further by debt deductions made to this, adding to cycles of debt and poverty. “Dignity should be a minimum”.
EDI challenge organiser Carolyn Scott was the final speaker, sharing some insight on LGBTQ+ rights in the UK and worldwide. The criminal records of homosexuals in Scotland who were charged when this was a crime, only had their records pardoned in 2018, and there are still 7 countries worldwide where homosexuality is punishable by death and a further 5 where it is not legally certain that you will not receive the death penalty. Carolyn shared how even in a supportive family, she was encouraged to hide her homosexuality in professional settings and society. Carolyn told students of how her introduction of a folk song she wrote, about a Syrian asylum seeker who fled to escape the death penalty, led to many conversations with audience members who were unaware of the plight of these asylum seekers and those who have not been able to escape, and how asylum seekers (if their asylum claim is denied) can be deported back to the country they fled. Carolyn told of a concert organised with other musicians to perform songs to raise awareness of these sorts of issues, called “Who Can I Tell”, which was largely attended by non-LGBT+ people. Carolyn, who is a lecturer in journalism, discussed how language used has an impact, how “gay marriage” as a term signifies some difference from marriage simply being equally available to all and that “we have voices, we don’t need to be given one; it needs to be elevated”.
After the individual presentations, the speakers took questions from the students present, which showed students really understand their curriculum and the value of inclusion therein, referring to representation as a focus in their learning. Those aspiring to work in the media nowadays must consider the platform of their audience: if your content is on a platform your audience does not use, your audience will not see it. Similarly they must learn how to gain maximum mileage from their content, in different formats and on different platforms and this requirement was reinforced by the panel. Students were advised that content is more important than production values and audiences will respond better to a strong message with some imperfections in production. This tied closely to Carolyn’s own experiences where she described holding back valuable work because it was imperfect. When asked how to get their work seen, the panel suggested that students get to know people at organisations already working on these topics, who can provide feedback, contribute their own work to be represented, and further share the finished product. Reach out for input and learn, rather than being scared of making a mistake. Elevate the voices of those you are focusing on, not what you think their voice is. Chris Packham’s documentary about autism which centres on his experience was held up as a good example of the affected voice dictating the content, not outside interpretation changing the narrative.
We’re so excited to see the Authentic Assessments students submit when they are showcased. We’re sure this will be a great platform for the ENhance themes of Inclusion, Citizenship & Community, Digital & Information Literacy, and perhaps some Global Outlook and Sustainability thrown in there, too.