Hertford is in the process of exploring its links to colonialism and its response to the challenges of BLM. As an educational charity, we are committed to action based on evidence; our chequered history means we were not substantial material beneficiaries of colonialism, although this in no way discharges us of responsibility for addressing its long shadow. Thus we have concentrated our efforts to create a fairer, more alert, and more diverse future Hertford at all levels. Our learning phase has so far involved:
- researching and honouring the legacy of Alain Locke, the first African-American Rhodes Scholar, including a ceremony to unveil a portrait of Locke in our dining hall in 2018, talks and research presentations, and a substantial archival contribution to the Oxford exhibition Making History: Christian Cole, Alain Locke and Oscar Wilde at Oxford. We have established the Alain Locke graduate scholarship in his honour.
- developing, in conversation with students, a Liberation Shelf of new books in the library, as we all commit to the better understanding of colonialism and its legacies: bit.ly/hertfordliberation.
- establishing an annual Equalities week, with a combination of talks about history, lived experience, and activism working towards supporting the diversity in our current population.
- continuing research into the perceptions of the college by BAME students, and a renewed commitment to diversity in student admissions and academic recruitment.
- commissioning a new history of the college which will look anew at the archival documents about its multiple foundations and their colonial connections.
- supporting our teaching staff across the college to take up newly decolonised curricula.
- allocating funded Summer research projects for undergraduates to explore Hertford’s history.
For the academic year 20/21 we have a number of initiatives to develop our awareness and commitment to diversity, divided into three areas: attracting a more diverse community; supporting and nurturing that community; participating in and developing wider debates. We know this work is a process not a product, and we look forward to reporting, here and elsewhere, on our ongoing journey.
Hertford College, November 2020.