University of Glasgow publishes action plan to tackle racism and racial harassment on campus

Issued: Wed, 17 Feb 2021 09:00:00 GMT

Content Advisory: The content and discussion in this news article and report covers themes of racism and racial harassment, including detailed accounts of lived experiences of racial harassment from staff and students and the detrimental effects of this to physical and mental health. Although a challenging read for all, this report may be particularly difficult for those who have experienced racism or harassment. If you require support relating to the themes of the report, please visit these webpages to find both internal and external resources. If you have any comments or suggestions to make on the report, please email the University’s Race Champion Bonnie Dean on racechampion@glasgow.ac.uk

The University of Glasgow has today published a comprehensive action plan to help tackle racism and racial harassment on campus as part of its effort to address racial inequality.

The plan is part of the recommendations, including practical steps, found in the University’s Understanding Racism, Transforming University Cultures report.

The University of Glasgow investigation and report was prompted by a study from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into racial harassment faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students and staff in UK universities.

As part of the Glasgow report, around 500 students took part in a survey and very in-depth interviews were conducted with 20 ethnic minority staff to ask them about their experience of racism while studying or working at the University of Glasgow.

 Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, who as chair of the University’s Equality and Diversity Strategy Committee commissioned the investigation into student and staff experiences of racism, said: “The report is a very difficult read and outlines challenging experiences of racism or racial injustice.

“On behalf of the University of Glasgow, I want to apologise unreservedly to my colleagues and our students who have been impacted by racism or racial injustice while working or studying here.

“I want to also recognise the detrimental impact these experiences have had on inclusion, your wellbeing and your sense of belonging – for a University which prides itself on its values and reputation this is unacceptable.”

He added: “While tackling racism is a problem that extends far beyond the University of Glasgow, following the 2019 EHRC report we resolved to act and launched a major review of our policies and procedures concerning racial harassment.

“This report and action plan is the result of this investigation. I want to thank our colleagues and students for bravely speaking to us about their experiences.

“We are determined to use this report as a catalyst to effect change. Already through the University’s leadership team in collaboration with colleagues and students we have begun to implement the report’s action plan. We hope that all our staff and students will join us as active participants in driving through these necessary changes.

“While we recognise that tackling racism remains a problem for society at large, to be the institution we aspire to be, the University is clear that we must act and act decisively. This report and the accompanying action plan offers us a way forward to deliver real and meaningful change.”

Liam Brady, President, Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council, and Ella McCabe, Vice President Student Support, Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council, said: “While the report highlights the fact that we are sadly a long way from being the wholly inclusive and equitable institution that we wish to be, we are really encouraged by the publication of this report, and are determined to take forward the actions that relate to how we as an organisation can help tackle racial harassment and make our student body an inclusive space for all, and one which fully celebrates diversity.”

The racism report comes two years after the University published its report into its historical links to slavery and began work on a significant reparative justice programme.

This body of research and programme of reparatory justice has provided a foundation for the University to refocus and address current staff and student experiences of racism and racial inequality.

The Glasgow investigation was launched as a direct response to a 2019 Equality and Human Rights Commission report which uncovered widespread evidence of racial harassment on university campuses.

The University of Glasgow’s Understanding Racism, Transforming University Cultures’ report found:

  • One in two ethnic minority students had been racially harassed highlighting a significant variance with the handful of student racial harassment cases captured by our University processes.
  • Half of all ethnic minority students reported being harassed between two and five times since beginning their studies at the University of Glasgow while one in 20 students reported more than 20 separate incidents of harassment.
  • A reluctance to report such harassment because of a lack of confidence that such incidents would be treated seriously combined with a fear of reprisals from fellow students and staff.
  • Among staff, coded forms of racism were more prevalent than overt racism. Such coded but persistent racial harassment has a corrosive and scarring effect on the physical and mental health of ethnic minority staff.
  • More than a quarter of ethnic minority students who took part in the survey say the University of Glasgow has a serious problem with racism.

Alongside such interpersonal racism, the report also found evidence of structural disadvantage facing ethnic minority staff and students including:

  • A statistically significant degree awarding gap between Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students in 2018/19 of over 10% in comparison to their White peers.
  • The disproportionate precarity of our ethnic minority staff who are between two and three times more likely to be employed on fixed term contracts.
  • No ethnic minority representation on the three major decision-making bodies of the University – Senior Management Group, Court and Senate

The resulting recommendations in the agreed action plan include:

  • Senior Management Group to publicly commit to taking an anti-racist approach to University processes and systems, promoting a zero tolerance policy to racial harassment on campus.
  • Devising and developing pre-entry courses for staff and students on acceptable codes of behaviour at the University.
  • Building a strand of decolonising the curriculum into the University’s next Learning and Teaching Strategy.
  • Racial equality/Anti-racism campaign on campus.
  • Specific reference made to racial harassment in the University’s:
    • Equality and Diversity Policy
    • Dignity at Work and Study Policy
    • Student Codes of Conduct
    • Complaints process
  • Recruitment of new Respect Advisers to ensure ethnic diversity.
  • Anti-racist and cultural awareness training for all staff, prioritising those involved in staff or student investigation processes.
  • Implementation of further anti-racist training beyond the mandatory requirement for the certain roles including the Senior Management Group and the University’s Senior Leaders Forum.

For more information contact Áine Allardyce, Communications Manager, External Relations on email on aine.allardyce@glasgow.ac.uk or media@glasgow.ac.uk

If you have any comments or suggestions to make on the report, please email the University’s Race Champion Bonnie Dean on racechampion@glasgow.ac.uk

Read the full report - Understanding Racism, Transforming University Cultures - and the report’s action plan.

In October 2019, Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Tackling racial harassment: universities challenged report was published. On the back of this report, the University of Glasgow commissioned its own investigation.