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Letter from two MRes graduates and current PhD students to the University of Chichester

Dear Professors Jane Longmore and Hugo Frey


We are writing to you as two PhD students under the supervision of Professor Hakim Adi to ask that you reconsider your decision to cut the MRes The History of Africa and the African Diaspora and secondly to relieve Professor Hakim Adi of his employment and role as our supervisor. As two graduates of the MRes degree who have successfully progressed onto PhD level at the University of Chichester we are primarily disappointed and dissatisfied with your decision as well the processes which have led us to the point. As two students of Afro-Caribbean heritage we chose to study at the University of Chichester for three reasons in particular; to be taught and supervised under the unique scholarship as produced by Professor Hakim Adi, secondly, the course which is unique and the only one in the United Kingdom and thirdly for the fact that we not only saw ourselves represented in this course but in its design we as African and Caribbean students would be trained as historians and supported to gain further skills and acquire further education by means of progressing to PhD level. We are currently first year students and will be progressing into the second year in September 2023, we were not informed about this decision by yourselves or any other representative from the University. As we were not informed about this process, we also were not given information on who the University would then choose to supervise our PhD programmes and we are not convinced that any person within the University or outside of it has the expertise required to rise to the challenge of the task.


The University of Chichester suggested that there was no economic return on the course and there was inadequate advertisement for it. Other than a page on the website, we as current students and alumni have never seen what the University of Chichester as an institution has done in part to facilitate this by means of marketing for the MRes course. As we are discussing economic return, it is apt to discuss how the University of Chichester struggles to facilitate students from disadvantaged, diverse and lower socio-economic backgrounds to study. We were successful in obtaining fee waivers from the University as part of our PhD applications and this was majorly facilitated by the hard work and commitment of Professor Hakim Adi. Without it, we would not have enrolled in PhD studies at the University or elsewhere Professor Hakim Adi was consistent in his commitment to engaging with the University and Professor Hugo Frey specifically and did not hesitate to continue pushing, applying and supporting our applications until our eventual success. For Tirivashe Jele, Professor Hakim Adi went above and beyond in ensuring that once the University had agreed to support the fee waiver that funding would be acquired externally. He was successful in doing so and due to his support as well as the additional support of her two co-supervisors Professor June Bam-Hutchinson (now June Bam) from the University of Johannesburg and Professor Toby Green from Kings College University, she is now a recipient of the prestigious Leverhulme Trusts Studentship Abroad Grant for two years to conduct field research across Southern Africa. For Danny Thompson. When his first application for financial support from Chichester was turned down, he was forced to suspend his studies. During this period Professor Adi continued to support him, and eventually secured a fee waiver which enabled him to resume his studies. The University of Chichester makes claims about equality and diversity but we the students who are categorised under such protected categories in the Equality Act of 2010 would like to state that this is not achieved in practice. The students and alumni of the MRes Course do not understand how a course that trains much needed Historians and Researchers of African and Caribbean descent with focuses on their own history can be cut as it is currently the only one in the UK and in Europe. As alumni who successfully graduated from the MRes course we expected more engagement from the University about the course, advice on next steps and further study as well as how we could support the promotion of the course. This was however done by our supervisor Professor Hakim Adi without institutional assistance. As the United Kingdom regresses in terms of progress in regards to race and class, we find that the University of Chichester is in fact a microcosmic example of this. In 2020 during the Black Lives Matter Protests and discussions institutions across the country pledged to engage in active listening and learning on discrimination, racism and other related issues and in so doing pledge to support the struggle against racism and discrimination of and towards students, Professors and other staff.


Despite this, we find three years on in 2023 this work has not only slowed but has in fact been pushed aside and has made students such as ourselves feel as though it was never meaningfully placed within the University of Chichester’s Agenda for moving forward. We as students of African and Caribbean heritage at Chichester would have assumed that this course and the work of Professor Hakim Adi has been a significant part of facilitating progressing and ensuring a positive change in attitude towards the history of Africans and the African diaspora as well as our place at the University in the current context. It is difficult to understand how these two ideals are not seen as mutually reinforcing. We would like to demand that the University of Chichester reconsider the discontinuation of the MRes the History of Africa and the African Diaspora as there is no time greater than the present to not only assert through our studies and presence that Africans and people of the African diasporas have made significant impact in the United Kingdom, in the United States and across the world as well as in the University of Chichester. We are also demanding that the tenure of Professor Hakim Adi be restructured so as to separate his terms of employment from the course. We are also demanding that Professor Hakim Adi stays on at the University of Chichester in his capacity as Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora and as our supervisor. Lastly, should these demands fail to be adequately addressed and should Professor Hakim Adi’s position be terminated we will challenge this decision by taking the University of Chichester to an employment tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal on the basis of direct and indirect discrimination and we will also claim regarding injury to feeling and emotional distress of Professor Hakim Adi and each of the students under his supervision.


Signed:

Danny Thompson

Tirivashe Jele

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