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Why isn’t my professor black?

GuestBlogger21 March 2014

Members of the event panel

Members of the event panel
Photo: Rachna Kayastha

pencil-iconWritten By Jamilah Jahi (UCL Medical Student)

After three years of studying at UCL, I can count the number of black lecturers who have taught me on one hand: zero.

Perhaps this is not alarming, after all, black people are a minority ethnic group in the UK. Surely we should expect low numbers amongst our teaching staff too. Is it, therefore, acceptable that only 0.4% of professors in the UK are black? At least six black academics disagree.

On 10 March 2014, UCL hosted the live panel discussion, ‘Why isn’t my Professor Black?’ It was clear that many were longing for an answer to this “interesting but depressing” question. Due to popular demand, the event had to be relocated to the Cruciform lecture theatre, which holds just under 350 people.

Professor Michael Arthur, UCL’s President & Provost, chaired the event. Sitting on the panel were black academics from across the UK, including UCL’s Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, who organised the event.

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Still “crazy” after all these years?

GuestBlogger10 March 2014

diversity-month2014pencil-iconWritten by Danelle Pettman (UCL Psychiatry)

Dr Claire Henderson’s talk ‘Still “crazy” after all these years? How public attitudes to mental health have changed over time’ began with the unusual request of asking the audience to get on their feet.

She asked us to imagine that we were experiencing a current episode of mental illness and then asked us to sit back down only if we would tell our partners and family about it. I remained standing as I imagined telling my mum and boyfriend; a few others sat.

Then, she invited us to sit if we would tell our friends. I was still standing but it was more a hover as I went through my friends and decided which ones I would tell; a few more in the room sat.

Finally she invited us to sit if we would share news of our mental health problem with the people in our workplace; this was answered with a large thud as the majority of the audience (including me) sat down.

This simple exercise highlighted the stigmatisation of mental illness, in this case anticipatory, that Dr Henderson and her colleges aim to study.

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Alan Turing, a broken heart & the invention of the computer

newseditor24 February 2012

Alan Turing’s memorial statue reads, “Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime code breaker and victim of prejudice”. Dr Jon Agar’s engaging lecture encompassed all these angles of Turing’s life in order to ‘resurrect’ him in his centenary year.

A brief introduction from Sir Steven Wall (Chair of UCL Council) highlighted the relevance of Alan Turing today.

Firstly, it is currently UCL LGBT history month; secondly, it is the centenary year of Turing’s birth; and finally, it is appropriate in the context of the recent rejection of the e-petition calling for a pardon.

The key texts on the subject; David Leavitt The man who knew too much, Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing and the enigma of intelligence and Dr Jon Agar, Turing and the universal machine were mentioned.

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