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Beyond tolerance, towards acceptance

Sukhi Bains reflects on respect, dignity and privilege.

Boy and Girl exhibit friendship in Morro Bay Parade. Photo: Michael 'Mike' L. Bairder.

Respecting people's diversity is key to ensuring dignity amongst our local to global communities of different identities. Being a committed ally on equality diversity and inclusion is not enough in the education sector if one is to make meaningful advances in the sector. From the 1990s I focused on facilitating discussion towards multiple-identity cohesion within communities, and empowering professionals and student representatives to gain meaningful diversity outcomes – one could refer to this approach as being a change agent, which many EDI Practitioners actually are.

My first meeting with the SFC was in 2010, which coincided with the introduction of the Equality Act (2010) in the UK. It was a time of dynamic change for legislative protection, which was hitherto quite limited for people of different religions or beliefs and sexual orientations within both further and higher education. In November I was delighted to become the EDI lead in a working group facilitated by Universities Scotland, seeking to review national student misconduct procedures. Here I found that the approach to EDI was in fact very much about embracing an understanding of protected characteristics, and engagement with people of different backgrounds.

Being privileged has many forms, and I feel that if one is in a position as an EDI change agent, then such a role ought to be considered as a privileged one, as it can better society’s acceptance of our diverse communities. I say acceptance here, as a society being tolerant is just not enough for everyone to feel they belong; have equal chances; or even an equal say in our working, studying and public environments – the [recent] election would be a good barometer. I for one, would certainly not like to be thought of as someone that Scottish society feels they ought to tolerate, as being accepted is the goal.

In a time where visible comments of hate seem to become normalised throughout social media globally, allies to the EDI cause are even more much called for, so that society has a better chance of acceptance.

Sukhi Bains, Chair of the Scottish Race Equality Network (Colleges & Universities), Head of E&D at the University of St Andrews, and global EDI Freelancer. - 10 Feb 2020