In the Department of Liberal Arts at King’s, we want to create and sustain a culture of mutual value and respect among staff and students. A crucial part of this is our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion. With a broad international – as well as multidisciplinary – cohort, our research and teaching encourages a diverse perspective on social, cultural, historical and political questions that traverse the disciplines we and our students encounter. Our core modules all encourage students to identify the inequalities and exclusions created by power structures in the academy and beyond. Postcolonial and feminist theory are now central parts of core curricula, and we continue to welcome suggestions for how our strengths in these areas can be developed. As well as opposing all forms of prejudice and discrimination including racism, sexism, classism, ableism, transphobia and homophobia, we encourage our students to critique such injustices through the range of approaches they learn across the arts, humanities and social sciences.
In order to achieve and sustain this approach to knowledge, we regularly review our core modules to identify areas where we should diversify our reading lists, particularly with regards to race and gender, and to flag up new questions of representation, diversity, and accessibility. The conversation goes beyond the curriculum, however, to a broader desire to give students the tools for engagement in theories about privilege and inequality. In 2020-21, we included a workshop on “decolonising the university” for all our first-year students as part of their induction. This is not a comprehensive measure, but aims to provide a starting point, preparing students for studying and debating such complex issues in the classroom and beyond and seeing their studies through the lens of social justice, power relations and inequalities.
This is an ongoing and active conversation that we believe both staff and students should participate in. This statement, first collaboratively edited with students in the department in 2019, was the first product of our joint commitment to this work. In 2020-21, we joined the Decolonising KCL working group and employ student facilitators within the department to work on curriculum reform and student engagement in the ongoing practices of decolonising and knowledge production. The student body is encouraged to raise any concerns they have in relation to inclusive practices at King’s, either via the SSLC (Student-Staff Liaison Committee), with their personal tutors or with the Department’s Diversity and Inclusion lead, Dr. Ellen Adams.
Throughout the year, we will run a series of discussion forums for staff and students who are interested in discussing these issues. We also encourage students to propose events on related topics to the Liberal Arts Society.