Is racism a growing issue in UK universities?

Elizabeth Whittingham·10 April 2018·6 min read
Is racism a growing issue in UK universities?

Back in February, the internet expressed its shock at a video tweeted by Nottingham Trent University Student Rufaro Chisango. Is racism in UK universities a growing problem?

The video, taken by Chisango, consists of students chanting racist remarks outside her door- which she had to lock for safety reasons. Chants such as ‘f**k the blacks’ and ‘sign the Brexit papers‘ can be heard through the door, being chanted by a group of male Nottingham Trent students, who appear to get louder when they are told to be quiet.

Two of the male students were arrested on site, but released soon after.

This is just one of the many incidents that have been happening up and down the country in notable universities.

In Exeter, a WhatsApp conversation between the law society ended with many suspensions due to racist slurs and remarks.

Last week, a black University of Sheffield student had a banana thrown at him during a hockey varsity match.

A Bournemouth University Student, Telma Rodriques found herself subject to a WhatsApp group chat between male students, where she was compared to a ‘big black ape’.

A Black Warwick university student had her bananas defaced in the public university hall’s fridge, with racist remarks such as ‘monkey’ wrote across, as well as the N word.

Last week, a Nottingham Trent student was told to leave a bar because he was wearing a turban.

There have been reports of graffiti all across Birmingham campus stating that ‘Islam must die’ and ‘kill Islam before it kills you’.

Of course, whilst these are just isolated incidents, any racist incident at university should always be viewed as a step too far.

Key groups of people that hold racist and intolerant news have been emboldened in our press recently, with the Alt-right growing in prominence and ultimately, leaking onto the campus’ of our universities.

According to the Guardian, institutionalised racism is also a problem.

Up to 80 percent of Black employees are confident that they have experienced racism in the workplace, whilst only 46 percent of this number have stated that they would be happy to report it.

Chisango, when reporting the incident- stated that she was incredibly shocked at how slowly the whole process was put into practice, stating that the university displayed a severe lack of urgency when dealing with her complaint.

Likewise, Ifaturoti, whose bananas were defaced with racist comments, also stated that Warwick University took a great deal of time before they got back to her concerning the incident.

The student took to Twitter to show her anger, stating that it had taken a twitter escalation to get the university to respond.

The Sheffield incident was not even reported to the police, despite the university insisting that it had been.

According to the Independent, half of all university students have experienced or have witnessed racism on campus, including instances of verbal abuse, off-hand comments and exclusion from social events.

If this was not shocking enough, one in ten students experience racism on a daily basis!

A student, talking to the Independent, stated that their intelligence is questioned at university daily due to her colour.

According to the Guardian, UK universities have a terrible track record when it comes to dealing with racism.

Non-white students are 15 per cent less likely to achieve top class classifications whilst ethnic minority students are most likely to leave university before completing their studies.

Mhairi Underwood, community manager at the Student Room has commented on the growing issue of racism on campus; ‘In 2018, it’s sad to see the proliferation of racism young people experience on a regular basis. The impact these instances can have on students are serious, especially while also navigating the often stressful waters of university life.’

According to the National Union of Student’s President, Ms Martin, it appears that universities are more concerned about their reputation than they are about the growing number of racist incidents on campus.

The NUS president has stated this week that the current figures could be a lot higher, stating that she receives calls nearly every day from students reporting racist incidents on campus; ‘I speak to students on a daily basis that tell me that they have been called the N-word or been discriminated against because of their colour or not let into a club because of their race.’

In agreement with Martin, the labour MP, David Lammy, is also placing pressure on the government and on universities to act.

Lammy has called for all racism on campus to be shut down ‘aggressively’, stating that the racism on campus can be put down to influences from society; ‘I’m afraid there are young people arriving on university campuses listening to some of the xenophobia and racist conversations that they might have heard in the communities from which they’re coming from, even sadly in their own family homes, and replicating this behaviour in the freedom of university.’

Universities need to face up to the issues on their campus.

Racism, sexism, and classicism should never be an obstacle for students to overcome at universities; this obstacle, in 2018, should not be there in the first place.

Sadly, these obstacles are present.

It is clear that we must translate the anger and upset from these racist incidents into tackling the underlying and poisonous odour of racism on UK university campus.