Jawad is currently the Vice President of Education at Aston Students Union and talks about his new and commendable campaign "Why is My Curriculum White?"
What course do you study?
My journey with the Law school has been fantastic. The lecturers I have had the previous 2 years have always been supportive and always approachable. On top of this, their lectures have been interactive and engaging – enabling me to gain a love for the subject.
You are the Vice President Education at Aston Students Union, what does that involve?
This is going to be tough. To summarise, this role focuses on the representation of all students on campus to ensure they are receiving the best academic experience and have their voices heard by running campaigns and projects. However, the role is not only limited to this. It only gets broader. I organise events and ceremonies, such as Student rep training, I attend key meetings within the university that affect how learning and teaching works at Aston, I work with key stakeholders in the University and those beyond this position to promote the academic interest and their learning experience, I act as a key point of contact for student representatives of all kinds across the university. Finally, I act as a representative for students on a national level at a variety of conferences and other external and internal events.
You previously had an admirable campaign on Islamophobia. Could you give us an insight into your newest campaign, “Why is My Curriculum White?”, and what you seek to achieve with it?
This campaign was originally going to act as a year-long campaign for my current term. However, I was able to get a motion passed in council whereby the SU will be required to work with the University to decolonise Aston.
The aim of this campaign is to highlight the gaps in our curriculum and teaching, what it will mean to decolonise our curriculum and how we are able to empower students and staff on the ground to make a change. The campaigns main objective is to start a conversation about the topic and to lobby the university for a more diverse and representative curriculum, but also to ensure we as students are able to challenge the perception and thoughts in various fields. It is important to note, the campaign does not aim to eliminate white men from the curriculum. It will focus on challenging some of the long-standing biases which limit how we understand politics, society and the world around us.
What made you want to start this campaign and how do you think the movement to decolonising the curriculum should progress in the future?
I realised early on in my role, we have a very diverse community here at Aston and a campaign like this was never done at our University. However, the curriculum being delivered did not talk about those from other cultures. For example, it does not highlight some of the scientific advances in the Middle East. Furthermore, the curriculum holds a lack of emphasis on academics or scholars from a BAME background. On top of this, within the university, I started to realise how the executive held a white majority and there was no staff members from a BAME background. This made me want to make change and start the conversation – so students are made aware of this too.
Thankfully, there is a working group that has been set-up within the university, which is led by Hannah Bartlett. I have faith that this group will continue on driving the progress on decolonising our curriculum in the future. I also know that Lauren is on the working group and I am looking forward to seeing how Law as a curriculum changes in its delivery. She’s doing an amazing job for us all at the Law school! Hopefully, other schools can follow suit.
What work has gone into starting this campaign?
Much of the initial work required me to do a lot of research to find out as much as possible about our university and what is happening on a national level. This required me to hold various meetings with University staff and obtain as much data as possible. On top of this – the campaign required branding and content to go alongside it, so I had to work with my team-mates to ensure we were able to brand it uniquely, so students were aware of the topic.
Alongside this – I had to strategize each step, video, post and the events I want to achieve. In order for me to know what I need to complete by the end of this year.
How can students get involved?
Students can get involved by starting the conversation with their programme directors and asking what steps are being taken to decolonise and diversify the curriculum.
I am planning to hold focus groups to understand how students feel about the matter and what changes they would like to see. Most importantly, they can share the posts we have on social media to gain awareness.