Category Archives: Guild of Students

BEMA welcome-back social and weekly lunches + Guild elections


Hi everyone,

welcome back from the holidays, we hope any exams/assignments over the next few weeks go well.

BEMA have a few things planned that we wanted to let people know about:

1) Weekly BEMA lunches

Wednesdays – 1-2pm – Harvey Milk room

New to this term, BEMA will be holding weekly informal meeting/lunches with members* every Wednesday from 1-2pm in the Harvey Milk room (1st floor of the Guild, next to Costa).
These meetings will be a safe-space for BME students to meet with the committee and other BME students, and discuss any topics or issues they wish to bring up – to do with University, what they want to see from the Association, general ‘BME issues’ and so on.

The lunches will be a safe-space, and so are open to self-defining BME members* only, and we’ll ensure they remain a comfortable environment for everyone attending.

*Not necessarily signed-up members, just as long as you’re a student and self-define as BME (Black & Minority Ethnic).

2) Welcome back social – Dinner and 12 Years a Slave

Saturday – 5:45pm – City Centre (tbc) 

We’ll also be having a a dinner/film social to welcome everyone back.
*(The restaurant will be confirmed shortly, but will likely be in the city centre and will have Halal and Vegetarian options)*

The screening of 12 Years a Slave will be at Cineworld on Broad St., starts at 8:15pm and student tickets cost £5 (make sure to bring your student ID/University card).
As things might be busy, we reckon it might be best to book your ticket beforehand (Cineworld only lets you book a few days in advance, so try around Wednesday/Thursday).

3) Genocide Memorial Day

BEMA will be holding an event next week to commemorate Genocide Memorial Day, and historical/modern genocides worldwide.
We’ll have more information out on this later on in the week.

4) BME Guild Councillor elections

Voting: Monday 20th, 10am – Friday 24th January, 4pm

As mentioned last term there are 5 positions for BME Guild Councillors up for election, to represent BME students and interests at Guild Council meetings.

Candidate manifestos can be read here.
You’ll be able to vote via the my.bham portal from next Monday at 10am.

Your BEMA Guild Councillor’s voting records for past Guild Councils can be found here.

5) Guild Officer elections

Nominations close Monday 3rd February, 10am.
Elections/Campaigning open:
Wednesday 26th February, 10am

Nominations for Guild Officer elections are open now, for positions leading the Guild on behalf of students at UoB.

Positions include 7 full-time Sabbatical Officer roles, including President and the Vice-Presidents
and 11 part-time Non-Sabbatical Officers, including the Ethnic Minority student Officer (EMO) and Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism Officer (ARAFO).

Nominations packs can be downloaded here.

If you have any questions/queries about running for elections please feel free to contact us at
While BEMA cannot support any individual’s candidacy we’d be happy to help with the application process, and look forward to seeing more BME students running in elections this year.


BEMA condemns Guild of Students’ de-recognition of UoB Students for Justice in Palestine Society


On Tuesday 4th of December, the University of Birmingham Students for Justice in Palestine society (SJP) was de-recognised by the Guild of Students.

The reasons given by the Guild of Students for de-recognition were the following:sjp
– Student Development were not formally informed by the society of their EGM (electing a new committee) that took place last week.
– Certain forms were not completed on time by the society.
– The society was on probation due to circumstances occurring two committees ago.

As representatives of the ethnic minority student population, BEMA feels the de-recognition of a society that campaigns for justice for the oppressed population in Palestine (a cause which resonates with many ethnic minority students on campus) is wrong for the following reasons:

  • The decision shows disregard for the efforts of the volunteers that were on the most recent committee which organised events such as a talk by the political journalist Ben White, a performance by Raast (Palestinian-music group), a fundraiser for the  Women in Hebron cooperative, as well as hosting weekly talks prepared by students.
  • The decision ignores the ambitions and enthusiasm of the newly elected committee consisting of 13 ethnic minority Muslims (11 of which are Muslim women), an underrepresented demographic often disengaged from Guild activity.
  • The society had just regained it’s momentum after having been crippled by a Student Groups Committee decision the previous academic year to ban committee members from standing again.
  • We believe that due to the recent increase in tensions in the Gaza strip, taking away support for the only society on campus that solely focuses on aiding the Palestinian cause is untimely and lacks empathy.
  • We do not believe that a student group should be held responsible for actions that happened in previous years and that are beyond their control.
  • There are discrepancies in what the society was told was necessary to organise an EGM.

As a result, we believe that de-recognition of the society is a disproportionate and unnecessary punishment for the reasons given by the Guild of Students.

BEMA continues to support student volunteers that wish to aid the oppressed people of Palestine and urge the Guild to overturn the decision as soon as possible, or (failing that)  in the first Guild Council meeting of next year.

Voting record Guild Council 15/11/2012

Voting record Guild Council 15/11/2012

Here’s how I voted at Guild Council last Thursday (15/11/2012) on behalf of BEMA.

Motions with asterisks (*) next to their name were debated at request of Council attendees, the rest passed automatically.

Note: All motions passed are subject to scrutiny and acceptance/rejection by the Guild’s Trustee Board, who sit above Guild Council in terms of power.
Where a motion may have asked for changes to the Bye-Laws of the Guild, this is also subject to approval by University Council, which are a body of the University rather than the Guild.

Read the rest of this entry

BEMA to launch Bollywood film nights @ The Guild of Students


BEMA is pleased to announce that we will be organising monthly Bollywood film nights at the Guild of Students!

The first film we will be screening is Yash Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… on Friday, November 30th in the Mandela Room.

The film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor in leading roles, with Rani Mukerji appearing in an extended cameo appearance.

It tells the story of an Indian family, which faces troubles and misunderstandings over their adopted son’s marriage to a girl belonging to a lower socio-economic group than them.Made on a budget of $7.56 million, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…emerged as a major commercial success, both domestically and internationally, with a lifetime gross of $22.17 million and won several awards at popular award ceremonies the following year, including five Filmfare Awards. 

All are welcome and there will be refreshments available!

Voting intention for Guild Council 15/11/2012

Voting intention for Guild Council 15/11/2012

Hi everyone,
below are my intentions for voting at Guild Council on Thursday 15th November 2012 (subject to change if convinced otherwise at Council)

If you have any questions/concerns/objections/opinions about my intentions or Guild Council, then email me at

(Council will be held in Guild Council Chambers from 5:30 6:00-10:45pm and is open to all.)

Read the rest of this entry

Guild Council Nominations Deadline & #bemaBHM12 Events List


The deadline for Guild Councillor nominations is this Friday (5th) at 10am, and it would be amazing to see more ethnic minorities standing this year.

Guild Council is the students union’s decision making body, in which representatives of students take votes on motions that affect Guild policy, from anything to do with what events are on at the Guild, to what campaigns the Guild should be supporting. Currently there is a serious lack of ethnic diversity in Guild Council with there being only a handful of us as Guild Councillors despite us making up 28% of the student population. As a result, our voice is ever smaller when it comes to the Guild decision making process.

Obviously, the Guild is a small organisation in terms of the ‘real’ world, but motions do come up that we really could use a stronger voice in. For example, at the end of last year, there was opposition to the Guild supporting the anti-racist, anti-fascist group ‘Unite Against Fascism’, and although the vote passed in favour of support, it was a narrow victory. There are occasions like this in which we should really have a louder voice.

You can stand as a Guild Councillor representing your department, or you can stand as an Open Place Councillor of which there are reserved positions for women and international students. There are only 6 Guild Council meetings over the year, so the commitment is small in terms of time spent on it during term-time.  Also, if you are in the Medical and Dental School, there is one position each for Dental Surgery, Medicine and Surgery, Biomedical Science and Dental Hygiene and Therapy, Medical Science and Nursing and Physiotherapy.

You can get a form from Student Voice in the Guild and will need to write 200 words supporting your nomination. It would be great to see more ethnic minorities standing, and hopefully winning seats in Guild Council, so I would strongly encourage it.

If you want more info, you can message me, or ask our BEMA Guild Councillor, Azfar Shafi (who knows more of the ins and outs of it than I do) for more info!

Also, after an amazing Opening Event for Black History Month on Monday, the full list of events can be seen here.  We have some great, diverse events lined up, so it’s definitely worth coming down to as many as you can!


Areeq Chowdhury

BEMA President

Black History Month 2012 – Opening Event


After our quite successful Alternative Freshers’ Week last week, we are moving straight onto our plans for Black History Month 2012!  Our opening event is this Monday coming (October 1st), but would like to say a quick word on our Freshers’ Week first though.

Our Alternative Freshers’ Week was a new event for BEMA and we decided to organise this as we felt there was a lack of enough diverse events run by the Guild to cater for the demand of all students, although the Guild is certainly improving on this front offering new events such as the upcoming Ceilidh.  All in all, it was successful, the turnouts for events exceeded our expectations and it was great to see students having fun and bonding with each other!  The Games Night, Bowling, and Shisha Night all had good turnouts to good effect, and the week was concluded with a nice, social meal.  It is definitely something that we would like future BEMA committees to run again in the future, and possibly something worth looking at for the beginning of the Spring Term.

There are lots of photos on our Facebook page, with more to come in the near future!  There are also a few of our Societies Fair stalls on there too!

Back to Black History Month 2012.  Our first event will be held in Guild Council Chambers on Monday, October 1st from 6pm – 10pm.  There will be a screening of the film ‘Injustice’, a hip-hop DJ set, guest speakers, and free food!  The event is open to all, so bring your friends along too!  We have a lot of events planned for the rest of the month with at least one event per week.  Full details will be posted up soon.  We’re all looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Also, if you were unable to attend our Welcome Meeting on Thursday you can view our presentation here.

Areeq Chowdhury

BEMA President

Sign the petition and get the Guild to back the anti-austerity protests!


Dear friends,

Building on our post from July,  we urge you to sign this petition for the Guild of Students to join and support the national demonstration at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on October 2nd, and to join the NUS-backed TUC demonstration on October 20th.

The petition can be signed here –

Along with women and disabled students, black and minority ethnic students are amongst the hardest hit by the cuts made by the Conservative-led government. Black youth unemployment is now 56%, the rate having increased at almost twice the rate for white 16 to 24-year-olds since the start of the recession in 2008. In the Tories’ latest attack on BME students they have revoked London Metropolitan University’s license to teach international students, on whose fees it depends on for funding; this being the university with the highest proportion of BME students in the country.

With the recent Cabinet reshuffle in Westminster, the microcosm of the Government has been further reduced with there being no BME political presence in any Cabinet role. The only non-white minister Baroness Warsi was sacked from her role as Conservative Party Co-Chairman and Cabinet Minister and made Faith & Communities Minister.

We are fighting for a fairer society, and this is a fight that the Guild has supported in the past. In last November’s Guild Council we added this to Guild’s Beliefs and Commitments document “The Guild believes it has the duty to back NUS supported demonstrations and protests, and believes it has the duty to play a significant part in the mobilisation for aforementioned demonstrations and protests.” Motion 10K so it’s already official Guild policy to support these things yet they’re violating it.

There is clear precedent with regards to the Guild marching on political party conferences having backed last year’s demonstration at the Liberal Democrat party conference and precedent for backing anti-austerity marches having had sent coaches to the TUC national demo last year.

Please show your support and sign the petition,

Many thanks,


BME students call upon the Sabbatical Officer Group to support anti-austerity demonstrations


Dear friends,

For the June 15th Guild Council two proposals were made both of which BEMA supported. One was to join and support the national demonstration at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on October 2nd. Second was to join the Trade Union Congress national demo on October 20th, which is also supported by the NUS.

Due to time constraints both these motions were referred to the sabbatical officer group for a decision. However when voting to give the decision to SOG we had no idea that they would reject the proposals that would have likely pass at Guild Council.

Black students are amongst the hardest hit by the cuts which disproportionately hit less privileged groups. The average rate of black youth unemployment is now 56%, the youth unemployment rate for black people has increased at almost twice the rate for white 16- to 24-year-olds since the start of the recession in 2008.

Unemployment rate over 50% for Britain’s black youth

We are fighting for a fairer society and the Guild has repeatedly in the past supported us in our fight. Backing the demo against the Liberal Democrat conference and sending coaches to the TUC national demo last year.

Guild Council policy and precedent clearly backs supporting these events. On behalf of many of those most in need of fighting union we call on the incoming sabbatical team to reverse the decision immediately and commence work to build for the demos.

Please show your support,


Students “Blacking Up” in Selly Oak


Imagine my surprise when walking to Tesco this weekend, I saw a group of students sat on the pavement outside of Kebabland that had seemed to have “blacked up”.  I am not quite sure how to phrase it, but they had ‘made up’ their faces to be of a dark colour, and were wearing black afro wigs.  Safe to say, I walked past confused at their, surely impossible, stupidity.  However, on the way back I passed them again by Rooster House and their ignorance of socially acceptable behaviour was confirmed.  I regret not taking a photo, although, in my defence, I was a little shocked and confused.  It was about quarter to nine in the evening, so whether or not they were preparing for a night out, I can’t be sure.  I could have sworn that one of them gave me an awkward glance though.

But at a University with as diverse a population as ours, do students seriously think that “blacking up” is an acceptable or amusing form of fancy dress?  It seems like there are some that do not know the difference between fancy dress and offensive mockery.  This isn’t just a problem that these particular idiotic students have though, not too long ago, the third in line to the throne of the British Monarchy, Prince Harry, thought it was acceptable to go out partying dressed as a Nazi.  I’m all for fancy dress parties, I mean you could go dressed up as anyone from Superman to the Tooth Fairy and not many people would bat an eyelid.  But “blacking up” your face and wearing afro wigs?  That’s just incredibly racist.

So, what is all this “blacking up” malarchy and where is the line drawn?  “Blacking up” or “Blackface” was used in theatrical performances in America from the 1830s until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  It was used to display caricatured stereotypes of black people, and was also popular in British culture being used until as late as 1981 with ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’.  More recently, popular American actor and television host Ashton Kutcher caused controversy when he used make-up to appear as a fictional Indian film director to advertise ‘Popchips’.  The advertise was later taken off-air as a result of widespread anger due to it’s racial stereotyping.

Is it ever acceptable,  then, to make-up your face to appear like someone of a different ethnicity?  Ashton Kutcher acting out a mocking, stereotype of an Indian man is clearly unacceptable.  As is the case with Prince Harry partying as a Nazi, and the same can be said with those students in Selly Oak “blacking up” and wearing afros.  I remember, years ago, watching the biographical film ‘Gandhi’ in which Ben Kingsley played the lead role.  It was an excellent film and was awarded no less than eight Academy awards including awards for ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’.  In the film, Kingsley wears dark make-up so that his skin could appear brown like Gandhi’s.  The difference here between Kingsley’s portrayal, and those of Ashton Kutcher’s Popchips advertise, and those of the minstrel caricatures, is that Kingsley was not portraying a mocking stereotype but was fulfilling his profession as a fine actor.  However, it is likely that this was passed without criticism as Kingsley, despite being an English actor, is in fact half English, half Indian-Kenyan.  His original name was also Krishna Pandit Bhanji.  So for him to portray an Indian is, arguably, much more acceptable than Kutcher’s portrayal.

“Blacking up” and wearing an afro as a form of fancy dress is completely unacceptable though.  Like with Kutcher’s mocking portrayal, and the minstrel caricatures, it is merely offensive and perpetuating a racist stereotype.  Students often choose to come to our University and to come to Birmingham due to it’s diverse population and the presumption that diverse backgrounds are appreciated and that racism will be non-existent.  This is, evidently, not the case though, even more so as a result of certain questionable comments by students on recent Facebook threads.  It should, however, serve as a reminder to how important our work with BEMA is to combatting racism and educating students.  In the two years, so far, that I’ve been a student here, I have not seen, or heard about, much that has been done by the Guild to tackle racism, but hopefully we can change that in the near future so that we can try and prevent such ridiculous actions such as those I witnessed this weekend.

Areeq Chowdhury

BEMA President