I’ve been contacted by a professor at a leading Russell Group university who is worried about the spread of progressive dogma in the UK’s higher education sector. He highlighted last week’s report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which claimed that around a quarter of students from ethnic minority backgrounds at Britain’s universities have experienced racial harassment. He fears that this will be used by left-wing activists on campus as ‘proof’ that the higher education sector is ‘systemically racist’ and lead to further calls to ‘decolonise the curriculum’. He’s also concerned that he’ll have to spend more time at ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ workshops, where he’s lectured by privately educated white men in their early twenties about ‘unconscious bias’, as well as dealing with vexatious complaints from social justice warriors in his department. ‘Britain’s universities are in the grip of their own version of China’s cultural revolution,’ he says.
The EHRC report is called ‘Tackling racial harassment: Universities challenged’ and purports to show just how unwelcoming higher education institutions are for people of colour. According to the report, 24 per cent of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students, and an even higher proportion of staff, have experienced racial harassment. Pavita Cooper, an EHRC Commissioner who’s written a foreword to the report, says we must do more to protect people of colour from ‘feeling unsafe’ and take ‘visible action’ to ‘prevent and tackle’ racial harassment.
But what does the EHRC mean by ‘racial harassment’? In the executive summary, the report’s authors admit the incidents complained of are, in many cases, ‘microaggressions’. In the United States, commonplace ‘microaggressions’ include saying the country is a ‘melting pot’, claiming to judge people by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin (a speech crime known as ‘colour–blind racism’), and arguing that ‘diversity training’ is unnecessary. (To read more, click here.)