THE BLOG
31/03/2015 10:34 BST | Updated 30/05/2015 06:59 BST

Pale, Stale, Male: Why Getting Grime Legend Wiley Commemorated by Our University Is Serious Business

If you know Wiley as 'that bloke who sang Rolex' or because Ed Sheeran featured on his track a few years ago, then you're in need of some education. And that's exactly the point a group of Queen Mary students are trying to make with a new campaign, petitioning the university to name their new graduate centre after the local Grime legend.

But why? For Susanna Mollah, one of the campaigns' organisers and an English undergraduate at QMUL, it is about more than just getting Wiley's moniker slapped onto a building. "It's symbolic", she says "an external representation and embodiment of aspiration, ambition and success." So too is she dismissive of the idea that the campaign can begin and end by simply commemorating The Godfather of Grime. "That's passive. This is about academically-focused social engagement across the various levels of education. We want the local pupils who are trying hard but require further support to be actively involved because it is only once they are inside, benefiting from the internal structures that change can begin."

She's not alone either. Mollah's ideas tie in to a growing complaint from the student movement at the moment - that their education is stuffed to bursting point with white, dead men. Recently, the University of the Arts London addressed this very issue, branding their courses 'stale, pale and male.' Outspoken on this issue is their President Shelly Asquith, who argues that "so much of what we learn about comes from the white, Western, patriarchal perspective. It's time we liberated our curriculums and broadened art education." Mollah is clear on this point too, claiming "there are a lot of young people and students in the area who feel disillusioned and having a black male role model that they can relate to is a particularly significant aspect of the campaign."

On a national level, these grassroots campaigns have gained large scale backing. This year, the NUS Women's Conference passed motions supporting a diverse range of students, from student carers to sex workers in education. In doing so, they have firmly spoken out about the importance of inclusive, progressive education which is open to all. And this is why institutions should be supporting their communities - because they have the chance to reinforce the message that is coming from within, whilst showing that success is not simply measured by citations in an academic journal. Evidently this is needed. Just ask any student on any campus at any university across the UK who their buildings are named after and you will receive nothing but blank stares. Ask them for their alumni however and they'll be able to name you a handful; usually those who they can connect with. Francis Bancroft? Jog on. Pete Doherty went to Queen Mary for just half a term yet students still celebrate his success above and beyond any other.

More locally, the campaign is gaining traction too. The petition has now been supported by nearly 600 signatories, a significant chunk of the student body. Alongside this, the community is also backing the commemoration of one of its greatest innovators. There have even been rallying cries from the sister of Hackney-born artist JME, who recently tried to get a statue of Wiley erected down the road from the university. But will it be successful? Well, in the words of the man himself: I was on a path to the limelight, now I'm on another one.

To support the cause, sign the petition and follow Susanna on Twitter for more