The Principal’s Pledge, June 2020
Black Lives Matter, because
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
These are the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt (among others) in 1948, and they are my values.
As part of a historic University, we need to recognise that we can and must seek to redress the ongoing historic and cultural legacy of racism. We need diverse voices and perspectives to enrich our learning in future.
Redressing generations of racism is an active process, not a one-off action. And it takes a community. We know we need to listen to the voices of our students, and wider civil society, in deciding what more should be done. As the disability rights activists of the 1990s said, ‘there should be nothing about us, without us.’
At Mansfield we have started on this journey. Our student body is the most diverse of all of the Oxford colleges; our library contains extensive works on equality and race in a range of disciplines; we regularly platform Black and BAME speakers; we discuss racism regularly openly and directly; and we are identifying the practical steps we can take to promote pathways to academic and other careers which give voice to our Black students. We are truly proud of our pluralism.
But we are not complacent. We know that our college is not perfect, and we recognise that our Governing Body (as with most academic institutions in this country) does not represent the racial diversity of our society.
I pledge to work with the Governing Body, staff and students at Mansfield to secure an environment which respects, protects and promotes the equal dignity and worth of all people, including recognising what positive steps are needed to secure everyone’s equal capacity to live in ways that they choose and in which they are valued.
I hope that all our students will contribute to this process in their time at Mansfield. And I hope that, when our students leave us, they will look for sectors in which they see Black and BAME people under-represented enter them and change them for the better.
Helen Mountfield QC
Principal, Mansfield College