England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Racism at Glasgow University exposed: For mass action against oppression!

A review into racism at the University of Glasgow has shown that 1 in 20 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff have experienced at least one or more incidents of racial harassment. The report, prompted by a study from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2019, shows a gap for Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities by over 10% in the awarding of degrees, compared to their white counterparts.

Approximately 500 students took part while in-depth interviews were held with 20 BAME members of staff. The report highlighted issues of racial harassment not taken seriously, with those in managerial positions being revealed to have had an unconcerned attitude towards racist abuse. 

This has led victims of discriminatory behavior reluctant to report racist harassment. When one member of staff at the university reported being called a racial slur by a colleague, they were asked by their manager “what did you do to make her say that?” Another worker also spoke of experiencing extreme mental strain while working under management’s indifference to racism. 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.

Response from the managers

Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow (Chair of the ‘Russell Group’ of elite universities from 2017-2020) apologised “unreservedly”. But as chair of the University’s Equality and Diversity Strategy Committee, his limited ‘action’ has been underwhelming, with representation of the wishes of ethnic minority staff and students from the senior management or main decision making bodies of the university, such as the university court or senate. 

It will take more than apologies to fix the damage that has been done toward BAME staff and students’ well being. A ‘zero-tolerance’ policy is a first step in the right direction, but these issues highlighted in the report are nothing new, especially since this report comes two years after the university published a report into it’s historical links to slavery and pledged to begin work on a “significant reparative justice programme”. We see the same sentiment of an ‘action plan’ time and time again without seeing any improvement of the lives of BAME students, educators, and staff under capitalist education.

Muscatelli should immediately resign over reprehensible conduct. We can no longer trust in the same kinds of managers who have been overseeing marketisation and the hiking up of student fees, while continuously making vapid promises to their students, educators and staff. Universities are acting more like private, for-profit companies under capitalism; not the institutions of learning they claim to be. We can look toward movements at Manchester and Lancaster Universities, where campaigns have been organised to force referendums on their senior managers resigning, with replacements being held democratically accountable.

Action needed to fight racism on and off campus

In these times of physical limitations and virtual learning we will have to do all we can to expose the realities of racism, on and off campus. This should include the use of socially distanced protest and militant trade union action to demand  safe environments for Black, Asian and ethnic minority students and workers. 

Institutional racism in education is a product of our capitalist system, one which relies on the oppression and division of many to uphold power for the wealthy few. Students and staff should not have to work in hostile environments. Racism should be taken seriously, with consequences for those who uphold this backward ideology. 

Those in power must be held accountable. Solidarity action from both workers and students need to be taken towards confronting the structural racism in our schools and workplaces. Ultimately, we need to fight the unjust capitalist system with socialism. 

If you agree, join Socialist Alternative and Student Socialist Alternative today, to fight for a better world free of oppression, exploitation and capitalism!


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