Our satirical columnist Edwin Phillips examines a Press Release to the mainstream media in Wales from a Welsh race relations body, after revelations on The Eye that Cardiff University had received the second highest official complaints in the UK amid growing controversy about alleged racism in academic institutions.
FROM: Wales Action on Racism Training (WART)
TO: All Regional Staff Editorial (ARSE)
We at WART are alarmed that you are not reporting important events at Cardiff University (CU).
The fact that CU lies second in the whole of Britain for complaints is a source of major concern to us.
It appears that only the website The Eye have noted that CU has notched up 39 grievances jointly with Oxford University behind only Cambridge University.
It is no defence that these worrying figures could be connected to better recording of data.
The disturbing news about CU is set against the bleak backdrop of universities who are not tackling, what we believe is racism at their institutions.
Responses to a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that The Guardian newspaper sent to 131 universities showed that students and staff made at least 996 formal complaints of racism over the past five years.
Of these, 367 were upheld, resulting in at least 78 student suspensions or expulsions and 51 staff suspensions, dismissals and resignations.
University staff from minority backgrounds said the findings showed there was “absolute resistance” to dealing with the problem.
But even these official figures are believed to underestimate the scale of racism in higher education, with two separate investigations by The Guardian and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, identifying hundreds more cases that were not formally investigated by universities.
Scores of black and minority ethnic students and lecturers have told The Guardian they were dissuaded from making official complaints and either dropped their allegations or settled for an informal resolution.
They said that white university staff were often reluctant to address racism, with racial slurs treated as banter or an inevitable byproduct of freedom of speech, and institutional racism was poorly recognised.
Their complaints come as students staging an occupation at Goldsmiths, University of London, enter the 17th week of their protest to demand it takes action against institutional racism.
Suki Ali, Associate Professor in Sociology at the London School of Economics, said: “There has been absolute resistance to facing the scale of racism in British universities.
“If you’re in a climate where you think that people don’t understand the problem, don’t take it seriously, don’t have procedures and policies that seem to be effective, why and how would you make a complaint?”
Priyamvada Gopal, a reader at the faculty of English at Cambridge University, said complaints of racism were often met with “race illiteracy”.
She said: “Complainants get exhausted and give up simply because there is no comprehension of what racism is.
“There is either outright denial, ‘gaslighting’ or minimising.
“Often when issues are raised, in my experience, they are either ignored or dismissed.
“There are few mechanisms and still fewer trained staff able to deal with race matters.”
These comments come from someone at Cambridge University which is the only academic institution above CU for official complaints.
This should be reported more widely than just on The Eye.
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