Wanipa Ndhlovu is TCSU’s BME Officer and in her first year of law. She is co-hosting a social event to discuss diversity at Trinity, with the College’s Admissions Tutor and Fellow for Ethnic Diversity, Dr Glen Rangwala. Here Wanipa outlines her hopes for the 28 February discussion and beyond.
What’s the aim of the Ethnic Diversity in Trinity event?
A key aim is to bring the BME members of Trinity together and help us to get to know each other. There is a large and diverse BME population within College but it doesn’t often feel like we are a community, which is something that I feel should be amended; there is strength and beauty in community.
I also want the event to be an opportunity for non-BME students to join the discussion on diversity, and how they can help BME students to feel at home. I think that this is an issue that should concern us all and I want to get rid of the perception that BME concerns are issues that only ethnic minorities should be bothered about.
There is something special about being exposed to people of different cultures, backgrounds and religions – and therefore by improving the ethnic diversity at College everyone benefits!
What do you hope the event will achieve?
From an external perspective, I hope that these sorts of events will show people that, as a College, we are aware that things aren’t perfect now but we are taking steps to address diversity and make sure that every person feels valued regardless of race or ethnicity.
What motivated you to run for BME Officer on TCSU?
I thought there was a need for change. There needs to be a more open and honest dialogue about how students of colour feel when they come here, and these experiences need to be understood, counted as valid, and addressed.
Growing up in York, I have always been in the minority in terms of ethnicity so I know very well that it can be difficult to try to fit in to spaces where there aren’t many people who look like you. I struggled to find the right balance between speaking up about issues that affected me and not wanting to stand out; I didn’t want to make my differences any more evident than they were. As I have matured, however, I have realised that it’s important to be an honest voice, especially when you are in the minority. I know that my voice counts and deserves to be heard. I hope that in such a visible role at College, others will realise this as well.
My mere presence here is a testimony to the fact that BME people do belong in spaces like Cambridge! Now I want to make sure that other people are aware of that and that our presence here is not just acknowledged but cherished and celebrated.
What could Trinity do to attract more BME students to apply to the College?
Trinity could do more outreach by going into schools in areas where there is a large BME population. There are some untrue stereotypes that unfortunately still exist, which deter some BME people from applying to Oxbridge generally, and especially to big Colleges like Trinity. It is only by going out to students and dispelling these myths that things can begin to change
One particular area for focus should be on outreach to black students. While there is quite a substantial BME population at Trinity, the number of students of African and Caribbean descent is relatively low. This should serve as indication of what work needs to be done and where.
This work needs to start within College itself by ensuring that there are systems in place for existing BME students so that they feel adequately supported. Seeing the existence of these support systems is encouraging for people who are looking to apply as they then know that fitting in is something they definitely won’t need to worry about.
Any member of College interested in attending the event on 28 February (7pm, M8 New Court) can email firstname.lastname@example.org