Racism at university: Gair Rhydd investigates

A Gair Rhydd investigation has received mixed results, revealing a low amount of Black and Ethnic minority (BME) staff in certain academic departments.

Meanwhile survey results amongst students have shown that 41.2 per cent of those asked have either heard of or experienced racist incidents at Cardiff. Of these, 84.3 per cent went unreported to the University and Students’ Union, whilst 45 students found that their complaints were not followed up.

Following a FOI request by Gair Rhydd, it has been revealed that there are less than five members of BME staff in departments such as English, Communication and Philosophy (ENCAP), History, Archaeology and Religion (SHARE), Pharmacy and Psychology.

Other departments with low numbers of BME academics include Mathematics, the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and the School of City and Regional Planning.

Departments with the highest number of BME staff include the School of Medicine, with 48 individuals, and the School of Engineering, with 40.

This news follows a report released by the Runnymede group last year found that there are only 15 black academics in senior positions in universities across the UK, including just seven females.

Meanwhile, the FOI stated that there are currently 9,524 students enrolled in Cardiff University who have indicated being of an ethnic minority background. This is out of an approximate student population of 30,180.

However, a study by Cardiff University has stated that 11.3 per cent of UK domiciled students described themselves as belonging to a ethnic minority group during the academic year 2013-14. This is slightly lower than the UK average of 19.6 per cent and Russell Group average of 17.2 per cent.

The report also noted that only seven per cent of all staff at Cardiff University are from a BME background.

Following reports of racism targeted at students at Warwick University, the Gair Rhydd FOI also investigated the prevalence of racist incidents at Cardiff University.

This follows after 19-year-old Biomedical student Faramade Ifaturoti found her bananas at Warwick University halls of residence to graffitied with racist slurs. Taking to Twitter to draw attention to the event, the hash tag ‘We Stand With Fara’ gained widespread prominence.

In comparison, it was found that Cardiff University has not undertaken any complaint procedures for students, staff and campus facilities during the last three academic years.

Although there was one case of a disciplinary procedure during this academic year, it was later dropped. This was seen as a University employee member voiced allegations about a Facebook comment made by a student which “may have related to a staff member’s race”. Ultimately though, an investigation found that the Facebook account in question had been hacked from “an unknown source”.

Despite this, it is important to note that an investigation in currently underway to examine the events surrounding the School of Medicine charity night Anaphylaxis. During the event it has been alleged that in a sketch poking fun at university lecturers, third-year students used black face paint to impersonate a BME member of staff.

In addition, a survey launched by Gair Rhydd has shown that 33.9 per cent of the 124 asked found racism to be ‘prevalent’ at Cardiff University. This includes 41.2 per cent of people who had directly experienced racism or heard of others who had been victimised due to race once or multiple times. Unlike in Warwick, the majority of these incidents took place outside of halls of residence.

In a more shocking revelation it was found that 84.3 per cent of incidents went unreported. Worryingly, the 45 students who did voice their concern to either the University or SU, their complaints were not followed up.

However, it was also revealed that of the 124 people asked, 62.9 per cent stated that they believe that the SU and University take racism seriously.

When asked for more detail surrounding events, participants explained that many incidents came from racist jokes and stereotypes made by flatmates and friends. Whilst this has ranged from “jokes with perhaps good intentions but were actually racist” to people frequently mocking individuals with stereotypes such as “enjoying hip-hop or Gospel music, ‘knowing how to twerk’…..[and] people grabbing my hair like I’m in a petting zoo”

One student continued: “In addition, I have been called ‘ghetto’ because I’m black, with a Southern London accent and have a loud-jokey personality.”

However, insults have not been limited to black students, with people emphasising that Asians and Muslims students have also been targeted. This includes one student leaving a prayer room to be accused of “plotting a bomb attack”.

In addition one student returned to his flat to find a “rude Post-it note about me”. This is combined with BME students describing feelings of “being left out” and excluded from groups.

One participant also revealed incidents involving a lecturer, commenting that: “[my lecturer] actually acted ignorantly racist to various acquaintances on my course.”

The results of both the FOI and survey will contribute to a nation-wide investigation into racism in university. Led by Warwick University student newspaper The Boar, this will include the results from universities including Southampton, University College London, Durham, and Manchester.