University response to EHRC racial harassment report

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has today published a report examining racial harassment in higher education.

The report makes for difficult reading for the higher education sector and the EHRC have called for a strong individual and collective response. The University of Leicester took part in the survey which informed the report, and also contributed an in-depth interview about how racial harassment is dealt with here.

Universities UK are also calling for HE providers to take urgent action following the report’s publication. UUK President Professor Julia Buckingham said:

“There is no place for racial harassment on a university campus, or anywhere else. Universities must be places where all students and staff are able to flourish. I am calling on my fellow university leaders to make this a top priority, starting by committing publicly to taking urgent action and ensuring staff and students know how to report incidents and access the support available to them.”

At the University of Leicester we are working hard to create a safe and welcoming environment free from racial harassment and any other form of unacceptable behaviour. A number of projects have been taking place, in partnership with the Students' Union, to improve the experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff and students. Our work has begun to show areas for improvement, which we will now build on. As a part of Black History Month, focus groups will be conducted to further explore the views and experiences of BAME staff and students across the University which will also inform our future race equality strategy and programme of work, which will include addressing racial harassment.

We are also shaping the national response to this report. Vice-Chancellor Elect, Professor Nishan Canagarajah and Professor Stevie-Jade Hardy, Centre for Hate Studies were recently appointed to sit on the UUK board formed as a result of this report to tackle racial harassment in higher education.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah said: “We are committed to working with UUK to develop practical guidance on preventing and responding to racial harassment. I believe that accountability for tackling harassment and hate crime sits with executive teams and I am confident that by leading with this principle we can positively influence future behaviours and outcomes.”

Dr Stevie-Jade Hardy, Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Centre for Hate Studies, said: “For too long racism within higher education has been regarded as a marginal issue but in reality feeling unwelcome, being excluded, and experiencing targeted hostility is fairly common amongst students and staff from minority ethnic backgrounds. The UUK advisory group offers a welcome opportunity to drive real behavioural change.”

Students who have any concerns about racial harassment or any other unacceptable behaviour can report this and get support via the University’s online reporting system. For staff, the University’s Dignity and Respect Contact Service is available for support and signposting.