Co-creating a manifesto for student-staff partnerships & equity
Amani Bell & Meenakshi Krishnaraj, The University of Sydney
About the manifesto
We believe that student-staff partnerships can be a pathway toward socially just higher education, particularly when diversity is viewed as a strength, and when intersectionality and Indigenous ways of knowing and being are considered.
Working with university students and staff during the 2021 Students as Partners roundtable, we co-created a manifesto for student-staff partnerships and equity.
The manifesto is framed as a series of questions, with reflective prompts provided for each question:
- How is the partnership designed?
- Who is doing the work?
- Who else, beyond staff and students, could be included in the partnership?
- Whose voices are being heard?
- How will people’s work be acknowledged?
- How might the partnership engage in ‘everyday activism’?
- How is the partnership initiative supported by university leaders and structures?
- How will you make space for ‘staying with the trouble’?
We hope that people will considering using the manifesto:
- when planning a student-staff partnership initiative
- at the first meeting (or any meeting) of a student-staff partnership group, to help frame discussion about equity issues
- to aid reflection on the process and outcomes of a student-staff partnership initiative.
We plan to return to the manifesto at some stage to see how it might need to evolve and change. Reader feedback is welcome via: 21C@westernsydney.edu.au
Co-creating the manifesto
As long-time admirers of the students as partners (SAP) initiatives led by Dr Tai Peseta at Western Sydney University (WSU), we jumped at the chance to be involved in the 2021 national SAP roundtable hosted by WSU.
The theme of the roundtable was ‘the Partnership Paradox’, exploring the potential for students as partners initiatives to be transformative but also at times uneasy and complicated. Half a day of the event was devoted to five parallel hackathons: ‘collective problem solving through hackathons to tackle a series of paradoxes’. Tai invited staff and students from five Australian universities to lead the hackathons and gave us some ideas for possible hackathon topics.
The one that grabbed our attention was ‘The Equity Dilemma’. As we are engaged in SAP practices and are also equity researchers, we wanted to explore how students and staff might work in partnership to tackle equity issues in higher education.
Over a series of meetings, we developed our plan for the hackathon, including coming up with a title and blurb that we hoped would attract participants: Making a Manifesto: Next Steps in Addressing Equity Issues – Who, Why & How?
Many of us who are interested or engaged in student-staff partnership practices are committed to equity and inclusion. Clearly there are equity challenges in higher education, and there are examples of student-staff partnership initiatives that address these challenges. Let’s share our experiences about the progress that has been made so far, and the work that is still yet to be done. Like the online teaching manifesto (Edinburgh University), join us to develop a manifesto for addressing equity in student-staff partnership.
Equity issues were also discussed in some of the other hackathons, for example Mollie Dollinger, Jarrod Hurst, Belinda D’Angelo and Alice Jensen used a design-thinking process to generate personas of students from diverse backgrounds and used the personas to interrogate how SAP initiatives can be made more inclusive.
The hackathon process
The hackathon attracted both students and staff, who brought a lot of experience; some had led SAP programs and/or researched them or related concepts. We started with a 90-minute session to share our experiences of, and ideas about, equity as it relates to SAP. After a break we then spent an hour beginning to form a manifesto. Our discussions were very interesting and productive. We looked at existing manifestos for inspiration. As well as the Edinburgh manifesto for teaching online, people shared other examples: Aaron Swartz’s open access manifesto, the Design Justice Network Principles, Donna Haraway’s Manifesto for Cyborgs and the manifesto for reproducible science.
Ideas were robustly discussed and extended, demonstrating the value of the co-creation process. Several questions arose during our discussion, and we realised that, unlike other manifestos with firm statements, we wanted to create a resource that would allow people to take an exploratory and reflective approach to equity and SAP. Shortly after the hackathon, we finalised a draft manifesto and sent it to the group for feedback, resulting in the final version of the manifesto.