EDI Advisory Boards - Meetings 2 & 3 Updates

TL;DR: In Meeting 2, students workshopped how we can manage everyone’s freedom of speech. In Meeting 3, students worked together with the Guild and the University to find solutions to better support students of faith and disabled students.

Meeting 2

On Thursday 30 November 2023, we held our second Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Board Meeting. Here is a summary of the discussions and topics:

Students from our EDI Advisory Board heard updates from the university and Guild on a range of topics including gender safety, bystander intervention, funding for societies, and the Guild’s student EDI Consultants.

The main item for the EDI Advisory Board was the Freedom of Speech workshop, where the Board discussed different levels of freedom of speech, severities of offence and what the Guild can do to support students in the context of freedom of speech.

Three categories of freedom of speech were defined. The first was difficult conversations, conversations that are difficult to engage in but not inherently offensive and they discussed what the Guild could do in difficult conversations, such as explaining people’s rights, providing guidance, moderation, and signposting to support services.

The second category was on offensive conversations. This was defined as conversations that are not illegal but clearly remain hateful or intolerant, for example, slurs or hate speech. Students discussed what the Guild could do in difficult conversations. This included explaining the distinction between offensive and illegal language, the legal framework the Guild operates in, signpost to support services for victims of offensive speech, and increasing staff awareness and training.

The third category was on illegal conversations, defined as conversations that go against the law, for example, speech directly inciting violence towards a group. Students discussed what the Guild could do to in illegal conversations. This included giving students better information on their legal rights, for example, the Equality Act and that if students’ safety is being threatened through an event, it should be cancelled.

Meeting 3

On Tuesday 13 February 2024, we held our third Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Board Meeting. Here is a summary of the discussions and topics:

Our EDI Advisory Board brings students into the room with Guild and University staff who are responsible for EDI so that students can influence the EDI work happening across the university.

The EDI Advisory Board were updated on freedom of speech – Exeter will be feeding into the consultation this year for when new regulations are implemented for next year. We’ll also be engaging students in shaping the new Access and Participation Plan (the current plan is coming to an end) which aims at improving equality of opportunity for students.

Students of Faith and Worldview

The first topic the EDI Advisory Board was about Students of Faith and Worldview. They were briefed on the human rights and Equality Act background protecting religion and belief (including lack of them) and that Exeter is not run on religious lines but should be where people of all faiths and none can thrive.

Around 35% of Exeter’s students declare a religion, belief, or spirituality (which is less than Exeter’s local population or England’s student average). The Multifaith Chaplaincy (and their centre under construction) and support for celebrations and communities are part of what Exeter currently offers students of faith.

The group workshopped ideas on how to make religious and cultural celebrations more accessible by providing adequate staff support and publicity, central locations, and providing guides for visitors on how to engage with the event. This will be factored into the Guild’s Community Representation Team’s support for these events. They also thought about how the university and Guild can help students develop in their faith or worldview by providing awareness and opportunities, creating space for dialogue, and meeting observance and food requirements. This will be fed into the Faith and Worldview Equality Group.

Disability and the Student Experience

The group were briefed on what the university aspires for when it comes to support provided to disabled students (including neurodivergence and mental health). The group then explored the reality experienced by students and what is needed.

Students described confusing webpages and processes and that students get overwhelmed or simply don’t know support is available. Educators and personal tutors need more support in understanding and implementing individual learning plans. Students also wanted more information and support around navigating the campus and its buildings accessibly and with parity.

What happened at the first EDI Advisory Board meeting?
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Guild Advisory Board- Meeting 2 Update
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