The Inclusive University

Holocaust Memorial Day

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The following piece is a personal reflection written by Madge Dresser Associate Professor in Social & Cultural British History at UWE Bristol:

Holocaust Fatigue?

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It was originally established to commemorate the Nazi genocide where 2/3rds of all Jews in Europe were exterminated along with many Poles, Romani, homosexuals, disabled people and political dissidents in the name of racial purity. But today Holocaust Memorial Day also serves to honour the memory of those millions affected by the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. 

The lessons we choose to learn from this day vary according to our contemporary concerns. For me the lessons are two-fold. The first is that all forms of racial, religious and ethnic discrimination can all too easily slide into genocidal violence. Today’s racial bullying can set the scene for tomorrow’s persecution as the travelling exhibition “Anne Frank and me” vividly demonstrates to today’s generation of school children.

The second is that our willingness to remember unpalatable truths is influenced by, and sometimes distorted to serve, contemporary political ends. As the last survivors of the Nazi Holocaust die off, the event itself fades into a more emotionally distanced historical memory and is affected by the present day conflict between Israel and Palestine.  Holocaust denial is rife in the international blogosphere and linked to the escalating violence the Middle East. Outrage over the recent killing by the Israeli Defence Force of civilians in Gaza has led to the widespread equation in the social media  of their deaths with the Nazi genocide. A recent poll this year found that one in eight Britons surveyed believe that Jewish people unduly use the Holocaust as a means of gaining sympathy.

Today is also the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Not everyone can visit the vast site at Birkenau as I recently did. It was only when I went there that I began to get any real sense of the sheer scale of the atrocity which had taken place there. Remembering is a complicated business. These anniversaries remind us that we need to preserve the factual integrity of the past in order to do justice to all victims of genocidal violence, past and present.

Equality and Diversity News from FET

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The Faculty of Environment and Technology has dedicated some resource to Equality and Diversity and Juliet Jain has taken on this role to support the Faculty make further developments in this area.

A number of positive steps have been made in 2014:

FET managers have actively encouraged staff to engage with the Equality and Diversity Training, which has now been completed by over 70% of all staff.

Department of Geography and Environmental Management staff have been engaging with a number of diversity issues related to learning teaching.  Chris Spencer facilitated a faculty wide ‘SALT’ seminar at the end of the year around the needs and experience of International Students.

Eight female students were sponsored by the department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics to attend the ‘Women’s Engineering Society’ (WES) student conference.

In November 2014 the Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics submitted a second application for a Bronze Athena SWAN award, and now await the outcome.  The Department of Geography and Environmental Management wishes to support an application under the new Gender Equality Mark, and will be looking at how to take this forward in 2015. 

FET staff also connect with Equality and Diversity issues through their research, innovation and public engagement.  For instance, working with an ethnically diverse primary school in Bristol with design work, supporting Bristol Women’s Commission with research about women and transport, and involved with a community project (Shape My City) that empowers girls and young people from BME backgrounds in shaping the future of their city.

Martin Luther King Day

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The following piece was written by Madge Dresser Associate Professor in Social & Cultural British History at UWE Bristol, to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Jr. was a pioneering Human Rights Campaigner and one of the greatest orators of the twentieth century. His commitment to non-violence , his internationalism and his declaration that the ‘giant triplets’ of  racism, poverty and militarism undermined  social justice at home and abroad made him both visionary and controversial. Assassinated by white supremacists in 1968 in Memphis Tennessee he was viewed as a subversive by the FBI and as insufficiently militant by some sections of the Black Power movement. Though the holiday was first officially established by President Regan in 1983, it wasn’t until 2000 that it was celebrated by all 50 states.

His career as a Baptist preacher in Southern America was grounded in the notion of the Christian social gospel –‘You don’t have to go to Karl Marx to be a revolutionary I got it from a man named Jesus.”. He was influenced too by the methods of Mahatma Ghandhi whose non violent but disruptive campaigns of civil resistance hastened the end of British rule in India.

As the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference he led a number of direction confrontations in the early 1960s against racial segregation in the American South and by 1964 had widened his brief to a war on poverty which included poor whites. His receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 reinforced his growing internationalism but as the racial crisis deepened in the urban ghettoes of the northern USA, his non-violent methods to oppose police brutality and economic deprivation in Chicago proved less effective and despite the millions who rallied to his Poor People’s Campaign, he came under increasing attack by a younger generation of Black Power militants frustrated by the lack of social justice and the war in Vietnam.
tags: Race