Personal Reflections

Thank you to everyone who has shared their concerns, reflections and suggestions about race equality, particularly over the past few difficult weeks.

It is vitally important that we all continue to talk, share and learn together as we progress our commitment to long-term actions that will improve race equality and culture in general and at the UoS in particular.

One way we think we might do this is to share some individual personal perspectives from BAME staff and students and from our student and staff allies who are non-BAME. The thinking is that these could be reflective pieces that support the open conversations that we have started and must continue across the University.

If you would like to share a personal reflection for consideration for the BAME Staff Network Website and/or the University’s inclusion web pages, please submit a maximum of 300 words to bamenetwork@sheffield.ac.uk.

If you would like, please also include a good quality photo of yourself. If you prefer that your piece is anonymous, please let us know and we will be sure not to include any identifying information.

Below are some ideas you may wish to consider when writing your reflective piece. Feel free to use some or all of these, or not, as suits you:

  • What are your personal reflections on recent events in the United States and across the world and the Black Lives Matter movement? What do you think this means for UK universities?
  • What do you feel are the main issues affecting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities in the United Kingdom at this time, including for example your reflections on the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • If you'd like to, please share something of your own personal experience as someone from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities - one positive experience and one difficult experience. These could be work-related or not.
  • How do you think we in the United Kingdom will look back at this time in history?
  • What for you is the most important action we can take as a University to progress race equality?
  • Are there any resources such as books, films, websites, podcasts that you’d like to direct people to?

We’d like this to be an ongoing piece of work (from students and staff), so there is no deadline as such. However, we will shortly be updating the BAME Staff Network web pages, and the inclusion web pages will soon be migrated over to the new content management system as part of the University’s web project. If you would like to submit something in the short-term to coincide with these updates, please share it by close of play Friday 3rd July.
We will work with the University communications team to select and prepare pieces for the web pages and reserve the right to edit content without altering the fundamental meaning or perspective of your comment.


Below is a personal reflection sent in by a Dental Student

My experience of racism within the dental department

During my 5 years of study within the Dental School at University of Sheffield I have, assisted by the
recent civil unrest around racial injustice worldwide, recently found the courage to speak up about
my experience as black female in a predominantly white environment at all levels. Having no
representation and no one in authority to report to who I could identify, trust or feel confident
would be receptive to my needs within the department, has been isolating.

There have been several incidents and micro aggressions that I know are at least racially biased and
show ignorance, from tutors touching my afro hair to satisfy their curiosity in front of peers on
clinics, causing me embarrassment and others to feel uncomfortable and question why I allowed it
to happen, to invigilators making negative comments about my performance during my exam in my
earshot, with one of them actually telling me there and then that I had failed that OSCE section. I left
that exam deflated and feeling like an utter failure. In actual fact I passed with 80% - I ask myself,
what reason would the invigilators have for treating me that way? To my knowledge others did not
have the same experience to the same degree as I did.

The experience that I feel is particularly damaging not only to my personal feelings but to my career
as a dentist was when I approached my personal tutor for advice on specialising. Her comments
came as a shock and I was disappointed with her lack of care, and obvious low opinion of me. Her
comments were (non-verbatim)

‘People from your background and with your A level grades and parents who are not in the
profession, do not specialise, you should consider staying in general dentistry (where you can still
make enough money to go part time) and taking up a hobby such as photography to focus your
interest’.

I was somewhat bewildered during the meeting, I was trying to establish whether she had misheard
my question or, was she simply dismissing my desire to learn more based on what she perceived my
background was and how it might affect ability to specialise? I still wonder what she considered my
background to be and am at a loss to how she felt photography was my best option to pursue
instead of a specialised field of dentistry. I wanted to know more about specialising because I have a
right to know about the process, I did not ask her whether she felt I was able to or even whether she
thought I should. She did not know anything more about my personal circumstances and so in my
opinion had no reason to advise me against what I have every right to learn more about and, indeed
do should I wish to. At the time I didn’t feel confident to challenge her comments, on reflection I
wish I did. I would be interested in her reasoning.