Over half of all students at UK universities have witnessed racism, and nearly a third of students have personally experienced racism on campus, according to research by online education forum The Student Room.
In an online poll seeking to highlight the experiences of 1,000 students across the country, it also emerged that one in ten students face racist incidents on a daily basis, and unfortunately many remain silent. The study suggested the most common experiences of racism at university included verbal abuse and off-hand or “casually” racist comments. Exclusion from social events also ranked in the most common experiences of racism.
The survey launched on March 23 following a string of racist incidences at universities over the last few months. At the beginning of March, footage emerged of a Nottingham Trent student facing racist chants outside of her student accommodation. At the University of Exeter, members of a student law society were suspended for allegedly making racist comments in a WhatsApp group which was shared online.
Quenelle Forbes, the ethnic diversity officer for UEA’s African Caribbean Society (ACS), believes racism is not “handled correctly” at and said more can be done to promote confidence among Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups.
She said: “The university can do so much more to promote racial equality, yet they’re not doing it. It shouldn’t be down to just the cultural societies to promote racial equality.”
In August last year, UEA launched an investigation after Ms. Forbes exposed a student’s Facebook post which described black people as “aggressive” and “full of hatred, vengeance, and prejudice”.
Speaking then, the director of student support services Dr Jon Sharp said UEA has a zero-tolerance policy to incidents of this nature. “We take any incident of this kind extremely seriously,” he said, adding “UEA has a diverse campus community and all students are expected to treat others with respect, according to our student regulations.”
SU Ethnic Minorities Officer Amanie Mathurin said, “It’s crucial that Uni management takes real steps in the coming months to diversify our curriculum and staff, and ensures that BaME students can’t just get into UEA but can also get on.”
Rafah Momo, a first-year International Development student, spoke to Concrete about her personal experiences with racism at UEA. “If you are white you are a blank canvas,” she said. “But if you are olive, brown, or black, your canvas is painted for you.”
Rafah recalled one meeting she had with a member of university staff, where she had hoped to discuss future career options but claims her ethnicity was assumed and the conversation was derailed.
“I had worked very hard and was very excited to make this appointment,” she said. “Upon meeting me the member of staff suggested that I had a good chance as I am female, disabled, and Asian. I am not Asian.”
“She assumed my ethnicity and then made my merit perish. The one-hour meeting became a meeting in which I was being educated on how to sell being an ethnic minority, female, and disabled.”
Unfortunately, experiences like Rafah’s are not uncommon across the country. Just two weeks ago, a group of students from the University of Exeter wrote to The Guardian outlining their experiences of racism, and are currently lobbying all UK universities to take urgent action against racism.
“These incidents are happening all the time but they are not all visible,” they said. “There will be other group chats and other incidents of intimidation but we will not always see the prejudice.
“There needs to be a big systemic change in the way academic institutions deal with racism.”