Recently, our Vice-Chancellor made an important statement on racism and xenophobia increasing on campus due to the baited media around the coronavirus. He talked about how discrimination has no place on our campus, and he chose the quote ‘viruses don’t discriminate. And neither do we’.
I think as a campus most of us would want to agree with this statement but looking at the representation and treatment of minorities, on a staff and student level, across campus, I don’t think this statement holds true. I don’t want to rip apart anyone’s attempt to do the right thing and stand up in the face of discrimination, but what I do want to do, is point out that when the discrimination comes from the top, there is silence. It is not hard to call out those you have a position of power over, what is really a credit to character is your ability to call out your equals and superiors, even when it is a risk. The Courier took such a risk running the articles about the stalking incident on campus, but other than that the Uni fell silent, ‘a review’ was promised but no changes made. No apologies for the damage, and the fear both the stalker’s victim, and other survivors on this campus feel as a result of decisions made.
When discrimination comes from the top, there is silence
This is also the second time this year that strikes have been announced, and according to the UCU website part of the reason why is that women, black and minority ethnic staff are discriminated against in their wages and opportunities for promotion and research. This is backed up by evidence from gov.uk that says men make up 63% of the highest paid staff at our University and women make 20p to every £1 a man makes in relation to bonuses.
I am glad our Vice Chancellor took the time to write out a statement calling for us all to treat each other better, and that as a campus we are against discrimination. However, I want us to expect that and more. I want our University to prioritise the safety of victims over their perpetrators; I want our University to stand up, including our VC as our Universities main representative, in the face of all discrimination even when it isn’t easy to do so.
A few weeks ago, Chris Day, the Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University issued and email to the university’s staff and students about the coronavirus and the discrimination some students have faced as a result. In the email, Mr Day urged the university community to take a minute to consider the impact that the current situation is having on those who have travelled back from China and that it is important that we come together to show them support. There have been shocking incidents including one where two students were “spat at” in the street after the coronavirus outbreak.
The fact that racism and xenophobia is taking place as a result of the current outbreak of the coronavirus is very serious and the university should do everything in its power to make sure that this kind of behaviour does not go on. However, the distribution of this email brings in the question as to whether the university is genuinely concerned about the welfare of its students, or this is another attempt on the part of Mr Day to assuage the university’s increasingly precarious reputation.
I hope the University does everything in its power to help the affected students
In the past, there have been incidents where Mr Day seemed more concerned about maintaining Newcastle University’s reputation rather than the welfare of its students. One of these was when a male student was admitted back into the university onto a postgraduate course after he stalked his ex-girlfriend Amy. After finding this out, Amy sent an email to Mr Day demanding an explanation. When he replied to the email, he appeared to show more concern for the reputation of the university rather than her own safety and ability to enjoy university life. Since then, Mr Day has apologised for the impression he gave that he was not taking the matter seriously, but it does make one wonder where his priorities truly lie.
So, the issuing of this email raises the questions about whether Mr Day and the university is interested in making the lives of the students better or is the reputation of the university really all that matters to them? It is horrible that some students are receiving abuse because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, a situation which is completely out of their control, and we would all hope that the university is true to its word when they say that they will do everything in its power to help the students which are affected.
Featured Image: Newcastle University
Last modified: 18th February 2020