Are Universities Too Tolerant of Racism?

University students graduating

Trigger Warning: This piece contains discussion of racism, racial abuse, and racial slurs.

Last month, two incidents of black university students being racially attacked garnered a lot of online attention. I am saddened to say, one of these incidents took place at De Montfort University where I graduated from back in 2015. Performing arts student Elizabeth Sawyerr took to Twitter to display her anger when she was subjected to racial abuse at the hands of two of her white course mates.

It came to a surprise to me and many other De Montfort University graduates to find out that this could happen in this day and age. Especially at a university in a city such as Leicester, that according to the 2011 census was labelled as one of the most diverse cities in the UK.

But an ex-student at Coventry University who has asked to remain anonymous says racially motivated incidents happening at University is nothing new:

“When I was at university I used to hear about students having the n-word shouted at them at parties and drink-ups. From what I heard I don’t think any of them actually reported it to the university, and looking at what’s happening recently I don’t blame them. Because, it looks like these unis just don’t care.”

I was even more shocked when Deon Media announced that Elizabeth was suspended after the girls claimed to be threatened by her. Although she has since been reinstated, she shouldn’t have been suspend in the first place.

Recently re-elected NUS president, Shakira Martin in an interview with the BBC referred to the lack of urgency she feels universities have when dealing with racially motivated attacks:

“They’re not prioritising it and taking it seriously… universities are more concerned about their reputation than the wellbeing of their students.”

I can’t help but think that Shakira’s comments embody the exact feelings of a majority of black students in the UK. The poor handling of the Elizabeth Sawyerr incident, and Shakira’s comments throughout this interview highlight that universities may not be taking racist incidents as seriously as they ought to be.

Nottingham Trent University student Rufaro Chisango was also subjected to harassment from her roommates, after she posted a video of them chanting racial slurs outside her door. Although an urgent investigation was launched which led to two arrest being made, it’s still that black students have to go through this in 2018.

Many Universities across the UK claim to have a no-nonsense policy when it comes to tackling racism and discrimination. However, with recent incidents of black students being racially attacked, I can only assume that these institutions’ punishments for racist behaviour seem to be having little to no impact.

One thing that is for certain is that these racist incidents need to be treated with more severity.

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