‘Why is my Curriculum White?’ (or WIMCW for short) is a national movement aiming to encourage a broader diversity of course content in education. The movement aims to decolonise and critically challenge course content and perspectives offered through the accepted Western white canon of knowledge.
From October 2015 to January 2017, your Education Officer Melz Owusu led a campaign to decolonise the curriculum at Leeds.
Check out our timeline below to see the progress of the campaign:
To kick-start the campaign Melz, your Education Officer, hosted a panel debate at the close of Black History Month to ask ‘Why is my Curriculum White?’. This event gathered ideas from students for the kind of curricula they’d like to see, with over 500 attendees and over 100 comment cards submitted. These comments captured a lot of information from the students and staff in attendance which helped us frame how the campaign could progress. To have a listen to the event, click here.
After the event we assessed the written and verbal feedback given on the evening about specific experiences and views and formed our campaign plan for the months ahead.
We established a relationship with the library and received their full endorsement of the campaign. This enabled us to launch the Christmas Wishlist initiative, where we encouraged students to order books from the library that they wish they had been taught or had access to. We secured over 30 new textbooks through this campaign, and you can still request books using this link. If you include #WIMCW in additional comments we will continue to collate these in collaboration with the Library.
We worked with University colleagues and School Reps to launch the ‘Why is my Curriculum White?’ survey. This focused on collecting qualitative University-wide information from students including their perceptions of diversity in their curriculum, their School and the University more broadly.
We employed a temporary researcher to help us pull together our research, including our data, University of Leeds data and reports, and national research. This helped us to present the campaign as part of a national movement, and focused our attention on key areas for change.
We closed the survey in February and received over 500 full responses. This research has helped us to strengthen the case for action to be taken on the curriculum.
After fully analysing the responses to the survey overall, we started breaking this information down by Faculty. This helped us see where different students had different experiences, but also where their perceptions and ambitions for their curriculum were similar. We met with University colleagues to discuss particular aspects of this data, and started tasking recommended actions.
We held a second speaker event, Decolonise Leeds, in mid-March, with panellists focusing in on the curriculum, and the positive impact a diverse curriculum can have on the educational experiences of all students. You can listen to the event here.
Spoken Word Society opened this year’s Partnership Awards with a powerful performance focused on education and decolonising the curriculum. This event was attended by Senior University and LUU colleagues, alongside students and staff from across the University.
Our proposals to the University were ready - from all of your comments, ideas, critiques and creativity we pulled together a series of recommendations which we took to various University partners. Also this month, Melz was invited to Newcastle to sit on the ‘Why Is My Curriculum White?’/Liberate My Degree panel.
The recommendations developed from the responses from all those that took part in the ‘Why Is My Curriculum White?’ survey were presented in a paper to the University, which was passed. This meant we could really make more progress with the campaign with the Union, Library and University endorsement and start to make a difference in decolonising the curriculum.
A session held by Melz at LUU on the ‘Why Is My Curriculum White?’ campaign. Hannah Goddard also held an MS conference session.
Why Is My Curriculum White?’ goes international; an article about the campaign is published in Finnish. You can read the article here.
All the progress and exposure made in 2016 with the campaign has led to a BME intern being employed and a BME advisory board created by LUU to ensure that BME voices are being heard and represented within the University and Union. Melz has also appeared in a Ted Talk.