BME Network to discuss name change that could exclude white ethnic minorities

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By Maddy Russell, News Editor

This article was originally published on 11 March 2020 but, after complaints were received and new sources were contacted, it was amended and republished on 12 March 2020. Epigram apologises to the BME Network and any readers for any misunderstanding caused by the original article.

A proposed name change to Bristol’s BME network could see it exclude Ashkenazi Jewish students and other white ethnic minorities, but only after further discussion with all groups involved.

During a meeting in December a suggestion was raised by students to change the name of the BME network to the Students of Colour network. Those present voted to have a further discussion about potential name changes to the network.  Any formal decision of this nature would have to be passed at either Student Council or AMM.

The proposed changes would imply that students who were not of colour but who are defined as ethnic minorities would be newly excluded from the existing BME network.

An image of minutes of the meeting obtained by Epigram

Chair of Societies Network, Ife Grillo, who was present at the meeting said ‘there was a conversation about whether the [current] name is sufficient.’

‘International students often have never heard of the term BME as it's very UK specific so many don't get involved in the network. Other issues are that some students don't like the term "minority ethnic" and it centres blackness above other groups.

‘Students of Colour was a suggestion as opposed to what was being voted on. It was discussed and noted about how that impacts students who are ethnic minorities such as some Eastern European and Jewish students. Students of Colour said [in the meeting] they do want a safe space to discuss their own issues, but also recognised other ethnic minorities are part of the network and impacted by discrimination.

‘That's exactly why there wasn't a vote to change the name and only agreed that the network needs to look into whether there's a better name than BME, in consultation with all groups who would be impacted, such as Jewish students.’

In response to the news Jewish Student, Sebastian Sultan, said: ‘Anti-Semitism defines Jews as an ethnic group, targeting us for our ethnicity not our beliefs.

‘While Ashkenazi Jews are white passing, we have always been defined and targeted as an ethnic minority. For the BME Network to deliberately exclude an ethnicity that faces racism is a disgrace.’

‘While Ashkenazi Jews are white passing, we have always been defined and targeted as an ethnic minority.’
Seb Sultan, Jewish student

Grillo, however, ‘wanted to reassure students who may have concerns that the conversation wasn’t born out of a desire to exclude, but out of frustration at imperfect terminology being used to describe people’s identity’.

‘It’s so important to ensure that conversations like this happen and are reported sensitively. As otherwise we stoke tensions between different marginalised communities when we need to be working together to create change.’

‘It’s so important to ensure that conversations like this happen and are reported sensitively. As otherwise we stoke tensions between different marginalised communities when we need to be working together to create change.’
Ife Grillo, Chair of Societies Network

A spokesperson for Bristol BME Network said: ‘A motion was raised to change the network name from BME Network to Students of Colour Network by a Black student who felt that they couldn't relate to the term BME, but it was not voted on.

‘The people present only voted that it was worthy of looking into and to have another more in-depth discussion about what the best name would be.

‘The discussion will take place at another forum, but the committee has not yet decided on how or when it will happen.’

Epigram became aware that prior to the meeting, which took place on 3 December 2019, white students who identify with the BME network were asked by individuals not to attend. Bristol SU have, however, received no formal complaints about the content of the meeting. The BME network have also stated that ‘no students were told not to attend the forum’.

Featured image: Epigram / Cameron Scheijde


Do you think the BME network needs a name change? Let us know.

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