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18th October 2019

Action needed to tackle racial harassment on campus

Reports showed the increase of attention on gender-based issues, but the lack of focus on those that are racial-based
Action needed to tackle racial harassment on campus
Photo: Discott @WikimediaCommons

Universities must make more progress in tackling racial harassment on campus, according to a report by Universities UK published last week.

While progress has been made in tackling sexual harassment and gender-based violence, less priority has been afforded to tackling racial harassment and other forms of hate crime, says the report.

Julia Buckingham, President of UUK, warned that, “there is a long way to go in ending harassment and hate crime for good in higher education”.

Universities UK recognised the progress made by universities in recent years, for example, almost two-thirds have introduced consent training for students. Universities have also improved staff training, launched preventative campaigns and developed partnerships with specialist organisations to tackle harassment and hate crime on campus.

However, 45% of the institutions surveyed did not offer anonymous reporting, which is preferred by some students. UUK recommended that universities involve victims and bystanders in developing an institutional response to harassment and afford all forms of harassment the priority status afforded to sexual misconduct.

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore advised vice-chancellors to create a “zero tolerance culture” to all forms of harassment. He said: “The impact of these offences can be devastating on victims, and while this report shows the progress which has been made, it also highlights the sad truth that there is much further to go to combat the culture of harassment, support those affected and take serious action where needed.”

Professor Kalwant Bhopal, from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Research in Race and Education, said: “This report shows positive progress in tackling harassment and hate crime in universities. However, it’s very disappointing to learn that progress on tackling racial discrimination has been much slower.

“I’m not surprised by this, given this reflects other areas of higher education – particularly inclusive policymaking where race is not considered a priority compared to gender.”

A spokesperson from the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion office said:

“As a university we take the issue of racism on campus extremely seriously. We work very closely with our staff, students, Students’ Union and all relevant parties to try and tackle all forms of harassment and hate crime.

“Earlier this year we successfully renewed our Race Equality Charter Mark Bronze Award status, one of only a few institutions in the UK to do so. And through our award winning campaigns such as ‘We Get It’ and ‘Speak Up Stand Up’, we are consistently raising awareness around these issues.

“We highly encourage all members of our community to report harassment and hate crime both online and in person. To change the culture we need a whole community approach. As a university we have made some great progress, but we recognise there is always more that can be done and we endeavour to do so.

Staff, students, and visitors at the University of Manchester who have experienced problematic behaviour can use the University’s Report and Support Platform. The University offers anonymous reporting or support from a Harassment Support Advisor.

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