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Democracy

Education Officer:
Maahwish Mirza

Maahwish Mirza is the SU's Education Officer.

Hey everyone! I'm Maahwish, your Education Officer this year. Before this I was your average struggling, ever-so-slightly undernourished English Literature student, and I'm now here working to make sure you get the best out of your university experience!

I work specifically on all things related to your course - if you ever have any issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email (or, better yet, come and say hello to me in my office where there'll be a cup of tea waiting for you!)

All of us over at the SU work really hard to make sure that you get the best academic and social experience possible during your time here, and in order for us to do this effectively we need your feedback and want to hear your concerns. We have so many fantastic resources available to help you, and we want to see all of you happily navigating your university life.

I hope to see you around at some point!

Blog

  • Mon 24 Nov 2014 17:11

    October was a fantastic month – as always, new friendships were made, old faces returned and the year began anew, bringing with it the usual possibilities for all of our students.

     

     

    What was different about October this year was that we finally had our first month-long programme of events for Black History Month (BHM) at Warwick. While I was an undergraduate, I never saw anything organised for BHM, and the importance of this event cannot be overstated – at a Russell Group university like Warwick, we unfortunately struggle when it comes to recruiting home students from non-white backgrounds. For those few of us who are here life at university can at times feel isolating and alienating, and this is further felt by students who come from areas of diversity and are not accustomed to being such obvious minorities.

     

    I remember when the Woolwich incident happened - I’m sure a lot of you will remember seeing some prejudiced views being shared over social media, but between the abusive posts I spotted something far more disturbing than the usual Islamophobia that I’ve grown used to seeing. I spotted my Muslim friends frantically sharing a status with tips on how to stay safe - telling each other to go home early, to travel in groups, especially if you have a beard or wear a hijab, and to avoid being out after dark. I was visibly seeing fear – genuine fear – and it hit me then that many Muslims must have accepted life as second-class citizens to feel compelled to share statuses on how to avoid being the victim of hate crimes. That post upset and angered me, and although I wanted to respond saying that we shouldn’t feel afraid of walking the streets, I knew that my friends who were sharing the posts were not the ones to blame. Fear means an absence of hope - and, in a hopeless situation, words that aim to challenge perceptions ring hollow. There was nothing that I could do. 

     

    That wasn’t the only alienating incident I faced while a student at Warwick – there were countless others, from a ‘friend’ telling me that he thought I was “white” because I was educated, to another ‘friend’ trying to tell me that the British Empire “civilised savage nations”. These small incidents had a deep impact on me, and showed me that certain ideologies – principally, ideologies of supremacy – were alive and present at Warwick.

     

    In this context, BHM, then, is vital. I took the lead on organising BHM this year because past histories shape our present world in ways that we sometimes fail to recognise. BHM is important because it asks people to question whether non-white people in our society are still viewed in a certain way or treated differently. What is the legacy and long-term impact of centuries of state-sponsored racial discrimination, slavery and colonialist projects, and how does it manifest itself today? What is life like as someone who's not white? 

     

    BHM is also a firm celebration and reminder of the limitless achievements of people of colour around the world, and this acknowledgement is important because it's not something that's always acknowledged in syllabuses. 

     

    When I was planning events and wrote the funding bid for BHM, I stated that I wanted Warwick to become the premier hub for extra-curricular engagement with questions of race, ethnicity and identity. It was an absolutely incredible month – by the end of it more chairs had to be frantically pulled in for our events as people crowded to listen to our speakers. Numerous panels and talks were held that tackled some provocative questions; a student seminar series was started; a group of students were organised and taken to London to see The Scottsboro Boys at the Garrick Theatre; film screenings were held, and there was so much fantastic engagement and enthusiasm from students of many different backgrounds who were all curious to learn and question more. In short, BHM went a long way in us confronting issues of race - but there’s still plenty of work left to do.

     

    I’m happy to announce that this year I will be working on a project I’ve called ‘Race, Academic Attainment and Equality at Warwick’, which will be looking at the academic issues that ethnic minority students face. The attainment gap is nationally recognised as a phenomenon that sees students of colour graduate with lower degree classifications than their white peers, despite arriving at the same academic level. As a Russell Group institution it is vital that we take this issue seriously, and I was disappointed to learn that the University did not join the Race Equality Charter Mark trial this year (citing a lack of resources), which aims to measure institutions’ records on issues of race. While I cannot overstate that time and resource issues are significant barriers to participation, our competitor institutions like King’s College London put into place specific staff to look at the issues the Charter aims to deal with and set up the BME Student Success Project as a result. Institutions like Bradford and Birmingham have been looking into these issues for a number of years prior to the start of the charter trial, and Warwick has never conducted this specific research into attainment or adequately addressed wider student issues around race and ethnicity. While the University may not currently be doing this work that does not mean that we can afford to be complacent and fall behind.

     

    Through the course of this research project, I will be collating quantitative (data analysis) and qualitative data through surveying and focus groups. I will look at the experiences of ethnic minority students at the university, all with the aim of ultimately identifying ways in which the University and the SU can do better on race and ethnicity, and improve the academic experiences of often-neglected members of our Warwick community. Please keep an eye on this space for further announcements on the project, as well as information on the dates of focus groups. 

     

     

    Together we can – and we will – work to build a better Warwick community that is open and honest about the areas that it can do better on, as well as one which both takes seriously and actively confronts issues of race in Higher Education. 

Contact Me

Maahwish's office is on the 2nd floor of SUHQ.

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The election for Education Officer takes place during the Officer Elections in Term 2.

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