The Master, Alan Bookbinder, has written to all Downing students, in the wake of the widespread anger in the UK and around the world about the brutal killing of George Floyd.


"I wanted to let you know that Downing shares the sorrow and outrage at George Floyd’s brutal killing. I acknowledge the pain and anger of the black community in Cambridge and around the world. This was a life that mattered and a death that reminds us of the distance still to be travelled on the long road to racial equality and justice.

The extent of the protests triggered by Floyd’s death shows that mistreatment based on race is a universal part of the black experience. At Downing we try to outlaw all forms of discrimination. I want this to be a place of welcome, inclusion and diversity. We are a richer community when we embrace talented individuals from all ethnicities and backgrounds.

But despite these genuine aspirations and the many positive practical steps Downing has already taken, our students of colour tell me we have further to go. They say they do not always feel fully accepted and welcomed. They do not see themselves reflected in the composition of the Fellowship or the staff. While examples of explicit racist behaviour are extremely rare, students of colour do sometimes hear comments or experience micro-aggressions which reveal ignorance or insensitivity, and which cause them pain and distress.

I want all people of colour at Downing to feel that they are heard, that their talents are recognised, and that they are able to thrive in a supportive and healthy community. To achieve this, the College has to re-double its efforts to make racial equality a reality. This is a time to go beyond warm words and commit to some practical improvements:

  • In the immediate aftermath of recent events, Downing will assist any student whose work or wellbeing has suffered.
  • The College will ensure that the routes for reporting incidents of racism and micro-aggressions are clear and widely disseminated. Those found to be responsible for such incidents will be disciplined.
  • The student workshop on racial awareness, delayed from May 4th because of Covid, will be re-scheduled after College life re-starts in the autumn. Over time, other events will keep up the momentum.
  • Our mandatory unconscious bias training for non-academic staff will continue; the minority of staff who have not yet complied will be required to do so. (Academic staff already do this training in their University departments)
  • We will re-examine the College’s recruitment practices to honour as best we can our commitment to increase the diversity of our academic and non-academic staff.
  • In the longer term we will continue to listen to the concerns of our students of colour and work together to agree specific actions.

Please feel free to reply to me or to your Ethnic Minoritised Community (EMC) representatives with any comments or if you have other ideas to help realise our aspiration to be a truly equal community."

Contact the Master of Downing College by email.


Published 12 June 2020.