Adequate mental health support for BAME students at the University of Exeter post COVID-19

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BAME University Of Exeter Students Fear For Lack Of Mental Health & Wellbeing Support Post COVID-19


Black Mental Health Matters.

This petition is a response to Professor Sir Steve Smith’s statement on Friday 5th June 2020 regarding the University of Exeter’s support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. In the statement, the university admitted to their shortcomings regarding diversity and racial issues and stated that they are willing to listen to their black student community. 

This is our response: 

The recent pandemic has affected everybody in different ways. As students prepare to return to university life, there is an extremely high chance that students will return to university with emotional, wellbeing and mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety and many possible others. Unfortunately, a recent incident has left many of us feeling unnerved, and worried about how the University Of Exeter plans to deal with these issues, especially where BAME students are concerned. We feel as though BAME students have received insensitive and subpar mental health support that seems to be more about ticking a box and not actually providing essential aid to BAME students. Students are worried that if they do seek help from the university that not only will their voices not be heard, but their higher education could be negatively impacted. 

Sadly, this is not a worry of just BAME students, but of students facing mental health and wellbeing challenges at university, however, a recent incident has come to our attention in which an extremely disadvantaged black student with mental health problems has been denied structured support for her mental health issues and is now being withdrawn from her course without the opportunity to sit her end of year exams. Universities should be willing to offer other forms of support and consider options with the student, e.g. an interruption, mitigation, reasonable adjustments, etc., rather than being completely withdrawn from the course on the grounds of disability weeks before their exams.

As a top 20 university, this incident should have never taken place; there should be more support in place for our peers with disabilities so that we don’t have to withdraw a disabled student during their exams. If this can happen to them, it can happen to you. Be withdrawn from a course because of mental health issues that Exeter did not provide adequate support for, which will have a ripple effect on their educational progression and career prospects, not to mention the financial implications. Please don’t let this continue. Let’s resolve this issue now before more vulnerable students are faced with this problem. Let’s advocate for student-focused and disability informed solutions for all students.


The Issues:

  • We understand every instance/experience is different however BAME and disadvantaged students experience mental illnesses and learning difficulties more frequently than their peers and they should get the same acknowledgement and support as their peers from non-minority backgrounds. We want our struggles to be acknowledged rather than hastily dismissed. An increasing number of students have expressed fear that they will face negative or harsh consequences for expressing their struggles with mental health as this has just happened to a fellow BAME student at the university.
  • Students have faced unfair withdrawals due to disability.
  • Students fear that reporting learning disabilities and mental health issues may result in an unclear and insensitive procedure.
  • Determinations are made on mental health issues and solutions created by staff without the relevant training in psychology.
  • Students’ voices are not part of the discussions.

What we want/Our Proposal: 

  • Black and POC voices to be heard and treated fairly and equally.
  • The correct implementation of reasonable adjustments in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.
  • Diverse Panels within the appeal process. Regardless of the outcome students should feel as though their case or appeal has been treated fairly by a panel with diverse representation. 
  • Staff and students at the University of Exeter to have the opportunity to take part in seminars on unconscious bias in relation to mental health, race, disabilities, class and gender issues. 
  • Socio-economic background to be considered fairly, and not as a disadvantage, upon the making of decisions regarding students’ status within the university.
  • Recognition of the wider issues that may be impacting the BAME student body, such as the Windrush Scandal, and appropriately understanding the effects of these systemic issues so that said students are not penalised for things out of our control because of these incomparable experiences. (A student has come forward to say they have experienced this).
  • BAME students across the country are worried about the disadvantages they may have due to their race whilst studying at Exeter. We want the University of Exeter to assure present and prospective students that, at the very least, when it comes to the matter of health and wellbeing, their race, socio-economic background or any other protected characteristic will not put them at a disadvantage whilst studying at the University Of Exeter. We want assurance that said students will be supported to ensure they can complete a degree, to the best of their ability and reach their fullest potential.

What Can Students Do?

  • Sign & Share this petition in support of #BlackMentalHealthMatters. Sign to be a voice for students that have faced and could face similar issues on the basis of their mental health.
  • Share your stories.

What Do We Expect From This Petition?

  • A public response of acknowledgement and updates regarding the University Of Exeter’s Response to our proposal. 

We hope this starts a wider conversation as a black student in Exeter is currently facing all of these problems. Black Lives Matter. Black Education Matters. Black Mental Health Matters.

Thank You.

Disclaimer: This petition is not affiliated with anything societies or organisations, on and off campus.