Creating a Bespoke ARDEI Policy at MUWCI
IBDP History teacher, Reid Pierce, describes how UWC International's Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ARDEI) Board committee prompted some very challenging, but necessary discussions at UWC Mahindra College.
As well as being an IBDP history teacher at UWC Mahindra College (or 'MUWCI' as it's often referred to), I am also the Anti-Discrimination Officer, but this part of my role had always been quite passive in nature; I was there primarily to resolve complaints and claims of discrimination. Aside from a presentation at the beginning of the year during orientation, I was not proactively promoting anti-discrimination. But, when our new Head of College came on board, and once UWC launched its ARDEI initiative, the catalyst was there for things to change.
Early in the term, our new Head, Dr Dale Taylor, hosted a small group of select students and faculty for a brunch at her home. It was a working brunch with the theme of ARDEI. We did a number of activities including drawing the MUWCI as a person which reflected our great diversity!
Like all UWCs, we are an intentionally diverse community but not a utopia, despite what many think. Discrimination still exists, and it was essential that we come together as a community to introduce ARDEI and its guiding values. While a lot of good ideas came from this session, we realised the need for a greater action. We needed our own ARDEI policy, which took into account our own unique setting.
Getting the Community's Insights
Oftentimes, policies are drafted in isolation and then implemented from the top down or, even worse, they just sit in a desk drawer gathering dust. We knew that it would only work if we had total buy-in from all stakeholders. So it was essential that we had students help co-create this policy. Initially, I began drafting the document with a few of the students that were at the initial brunch meeting. These were student leaders from the Creativity Activity Service (CAS) group called ‘Race Space’, but we soon expanded to include our campus LGBTQIA+ group ‘Spectrum’. Getting insights from these two groups was essential as they represented a range of diverse groups and voices. This group expanded over time as word spread. We drafted a document that was equal parts policy and procedure. We made it bespoke to the College’s needs, and then we went line-by-line with the document projected in a classroom. We analysed the wording in detail, making sure it was fit for purpose.
The roll-out was exciting as we built up a larger group of 20 students and a few faculty members to facilitate an introductory session. We started with a cathartic but eye-opening exercise where, in small groups, students were asked to write down a time in which they felt discriminated against at the College. For many, this was a difficult exercise, as it helped to reveal how often discrimination occurs, and yet may go unnoticed here. While we began to read the policy in our small groups and discuss it, we hung up these small pieces of paper on strings across our academic quadrangle’s courtyard.
Challenging, But Necessary
Race Space representative, Ashley, was one of the students involved and reflected on how she felt the process was “a necessary step towards building a better environment on campus.” Although, as student and steering committee member, Madhav, pointed out it did feel difficult to have such a visual reminder that discrimination does still exist, even at UWC, “I’ve spoken to people who’ve had first-hand experience of discrimination based on their identities in places that were meant to be safe and secure; this can have a really detrimental effect on young minds, still in their formative years… That’s why it’s so important for us to actively fight against institutions and systems that propagate inequalities of all types in all environments.”
Bringing together an intentionally diverse community is not without its challenges, but it is at the heart of what UWC is all about. The College is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and we have chosen the theme: ‘Re-imagining Diversity’; in this way we will make ARDEI a focus for our intentional community.
We will be creating a new document which makes the consequences of discriminatory actions clear and transparent. This will help clarify the school’s response, and we will help students to understand how seriously it must be taken. We will also form affinity groups where students of similar identities can gather to share experiences and learn from one another.
Collaboration is Key
As Head of College, Dr Dale Taylor, points out the collaborative nature of the policy’s development has ensured its relevance for our school community, “We ensured from the beginning that the policy would not be simply performative. Rather, a starting point for discussion forums, affinity groups, and channels of reporting discrimination and bias so that the policy is operationalised and substantive.”
We will continue to host regular ARDEI events to ensure that this stays at the forefront of people’s minds. This will no longer now be just the responsibility of the Anti-Discriminiation officer, but instead we will form an ARDEI committee composed of faculty and students. In this way, we will continue to make sure that this is a truly collaborative process where all voices can be heard and represented.
To find out more about Anti Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UWC, visit the ARDEI section of our website.