During fifth week, Hertford College hosted its annual Hertford Equalities Week.
With an aim to encourage the Oxford community to consider ways in which inequalities and injustice can be combated at Oxford, it is an opportunity to discuss topics including diversity, social equality, justice and activism.
Fenella Sentance, Hertford’s JCR equal opportunities representative, planned the week in collaboration with other Hertford students, resulting in a fully student-organised event.
Sentance said that the goal of Equalities Week is to ensure women*, black and minority ethnic (BME), working class, LGBTQ+ and disabled students at Hertford have an opportunity and space to share and focus on their experiences.
Sentance told Cherwell: “The main goal was to focus on those communities – their experiences and concerns. Everyone in college has been enthusiastic [and] supportive, which has been really nice.”
In discussing the importance of hosting an Equalities Week, Sentance highlighted the necessity of the Oxford community confronting its systematic inequalities.
She said: “It’s really important that Oxford faces head on the systemic issues it has concerning access and inequality, and I hope this is some kind of part of that.I’m hoping the week will encourage people to think about these issues on a day to day basis and do their best to counteract them.”
Oxford has been criticised recently for racial profiling of students by porters and for failing to treat disabled students fairly.
By hosting events such as EqualiTEAs, a women*’s night at the Hertford bar and an Equalities formal, Sentance hopes Equalities Week will foster a greater sense of community across Hertford College and a greater awareness of everyday activism in which one may participate.
Sentance said: “I’d like women*, people of colour, LGBTQ+, working- class and disabled students at Hertford to feel recognised and listened to – and to feel that they have a community of people supporting them.”
On the importance of Equalities Week and her admiration of the work Sentance has done, second-year Hertford student Ashley Singh discussed the way in which people must interact to fight for acceptance, inclusion and equality.
Singh told Cherwell: “We all experience life differently – I don’t simply mean that we have different experiences but also that no person thinks in the same way as another. Due to these differences, it is vital to listen to one another because it is vital to try to understand. It is not enough to believe and say that we care. Be curious, learn more and love people. Champion those people who experience injustices.
“To do so, we must participate, avoid being a bystander, even (or perhaps most importantly) in everyday life. Validate people – your peers, your mentors, the people who serve you, the people who rarely feel valued. Fight ignorance – the rights given to all people (freedom, safety, equality) protected by law are not just given. They are duties for us all.” There was a women*’s meeting and box decorating event on Tuesday in the JCR. On Wednesday, there was an Equalities Week formal hall to celebrate diversity and inclusion at the College. The formal hall hosted speeches about equality and diversity on campus.
Hertford hosted an Equality and the Arts Panel Thursday to discuss activism, diversity and the arts with poets Will Harris, Rachel Long and Jay Hulme.
Hertford Equalities Week will wrap up Sunday, Nov. 17 with a talk from public engagement walking tour company Uncomfortable Oxford at 5:30 p.m in the Hertford Old Library.
Aiming to make Oxford a more progressive and inclusive institution, the group encourages public discussion of Oxford’s “uncomfortable” history, especially regarding its imperialist past.