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More than half of UK students will witness racism on campus

The grim figures follow a number of high profile incidents since March

UK universities have been embroiled in a number of racist incidents in the last couple of months, as several of high profile incidents have exposed institutions’ inability (and unwillingness) to tackle abuse on campus. One woman was subjected to racist chants while locked in her halls of residence bedroom, and more racism was exposed in a law students group chat.

It’s sparked a new focus to quantify how prevalent racism and prejudice is among students. Online forum The Student Room surveyed more than 1,000 students and found some incredibly damning results. More than half of students at UK universities have witnessed racism during their studies, while almost a third have personally experienced racism on campus – and one in 10 have encountered racist incidents on a daily basis.

Some of the answers included anecdotes of specific instances, for example, one student cited inappropriate fancy dress and jokes they’d experienced in the nightlife. “Lots of people black up for fancy dress. An African student has racist jokes made about them having Aids.”

Recently, the Muslim Students Survey published findings gathered from over 500 students over the last academic year. It also found that a third of Muslim students have experienced abuse or crime at their place of study in the UK. The findings come just days after a Sheffield student had a banana thrown at them at a Varsity hockey match in a distasteful display of racist abuse.

In March, there were a number of stories that went viral that highlighted the problem. Nottingham Trent student Rufaro Chisango filmed her fellow students chanting “we hate blacks” outside her bedroom door in her halls of residence. Later that month, Elizabeth Sawyer of De Montfort university was suspended after she made a complaint against another student who allegedly called her a “nigger” – the student being investigated was allowed to continue going to classes. Frustrations continued when a University of Exeter student posted screenshots from a Whatsapp group chat where other law students exchanged racial and religious slurs. One message read: “Alla is a social construct by sheep raping bumbaclarts in sandals”.

Ayo Olatunji, who works as the Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer at UCL has been campaigning against on campus racism in the curriculum, among staff, and also from fellow students. He notes that the way institutions deals with reports of racism means that this has been an underreported epidemic.

“The process of reporting a complaint is very arduous and very intimidating. The procedure can last anywhere from six weeks to more or less your entire academic year,” he told Dazed. In Chisango’s case, the university only acted once her video had been posted online and had received attention from news organisations, politicians and celebrities.

“I promise you, if people were to put out every instance of racism, you’d see something every day of the week. Universities don’t care about tackling this right now, the people at the top just want to maintain their good reputation and make money,” Olatunji added.

All cases mentioned above are currently being investigated, and while some arrests have been made there’s still concerns that universities are not doing enough to prevent further cases.