The York Student Think Tank (YSTT) study, commissioned from November last year, found that 11 per cent of respondents felt they had been subjected to racial discrimination whilst at the University.
Shockingly, 1 in 4 respondents from outside the EU say they have felt discriminated against because of their race with more than 1 in 6 from inside the EU echoing that feeling.
More than 1 in 14 (7%) respondents from the UK said they had felt subjected to racial discrimination.
Worryingly, 50 per cent of the affected people who said they had felt discriminated against admitted to seeing others facing discriminatory treatment.
When asked about the definition of racial discrimination, respondents said that stereotyping, profiling or differential treatment of another based on their race, skin colour or ethnic group was most common.
And according to the report, on-campus incidents tend to revolve around students stereotyping other students based on their nationality, skin colour and command of English language as well as other indicators of racial background. Those occurring off-campus were “verbally abusive” in nature, the report says.
But the report adds that discriminatory acts that occur on-campus appear to “usually lack malice or a specific target”, adding that they can be difficult to call out and challenge.
One participant cited the “subtle interactions between people” as a main cause of the problem, and these may not have been seen as serious enough by those affected to report it.
According to the study, the visibility of complaint procedures for reporting racial discrimination incidents appears to be low.
More than 8 in 10 (85%) respondents said that they were not aware of YUSU’s complaint mechanism while almost 9 in 10 (88%) said they had no idea of the University’s own procedure.
However, almost 7 in 10 (69%) participants did assume a reporting procedure existed even if they were not aware how to use them.
One participant said: “I didn’t really feel there was a clear structure of who to report things to.”
Of the 11 per cent of respondents who said they had been subjected to racial discrimination, 79 per cent said they did not report it.
Only 1 in 10 respondents said they were “aware and confident” of using the students’ union and university reporting procedures.
Of those who had encountered racial discrimination, 1 in 8 (12%) felt that they did not have the opportunity to participate in University life and contribute towards the campus community, whilst more than 1 in 5 (22%) said they did not find it easy to connect with students from various racial and cultural backgrounds.
The report says that the issue of racial discrimination is “far greater than we previously realised”.
It recommends a number of ways that it believes to be both “realistic and achievable” in helping to resolve the problem.
Adopting BME representatives onto all college JCRCs/SAs is one way, the report says, of helping to address the issue.
Its findings also recommend looking at the commissioning of a consultation into the college system at York, adding that a major trend found was the “centrality of the college system, not only to the issue of racial discrimination, but to the wider student experience”.
The report also recommends looking at disclosing support information to new students earlier and says that there needs to be better visibility of the Student Support Services online.
Mylo Scurr, the team leader of the consultation, said that feedback indicates the best way to do this is to “expose students to a wide variety of cultural diversity” through the college system and college events that “promote a cohesive community”.
He added: “Our consultation saw that 11% of survey respondents had encountered racial discrimination. That said, malicious incidents of racism or racial discrimination on-campus appear to be quite rare.
“The University and YUSU have two key roles in reducing the incidence of racial discrimination at York. The first of these is exposing students to a wide variety of cultural diversity that they might not have experienced prior to University.
“Feedback we received indicated that the best way to do this is through the college system and college events that promote a cohesive community. The second role is providing support to students who do encounter racial discrimination, whether on- or off-campus.
“Awareness of report/complaint mechanisms and support services is low. Personally I would like to encourage students who have encountered racial discrimination to report it. Without feedback and information on incidents that occur there will be little progress in this area – students must drive the change we want to see.”
805 people took part in the study which was released at a presentation last Thursday.
Of the University’s 16,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, more than 3,500 self-identify as “BME” in the current academic year.
The proportion of those identifying as “BME” has increased year-on-year since 2007, figures show.
Neil Dhayatker and John Olatunji, the incoming YUSU BME Officers, said: “This is an excellent and well researched report that highlights the issues regarding racial discrimination at the university. As newly elected BME officers, we will seek to implement many of the recommendations provided, particularly ensuring that all college JCRCs have a BME representative.
“We urge all students to report any incidents of racial discrimination. It is essential that the university is made aware of any incidents, so action can be taken. We will certainly seek to review the complaints/reports mechanisms and will work closely with the university, especially with the Equality and Diversity Office to ensure progress.”
The University’s Registrar and Secretary David Duncan said: “As Convenor of the Equality and Diversity Committee, I attended the launch of this report on Thursday. The results should be seen in the round. On the one hand, the large majority of students do not agree with the statement that racial discrimination is a problem on campus, and the large majority of students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds have not experienced racism themselves. At the same time, there is a significant minority who used this survey to express concerns. Many of these relate to everyday experiences such as feeling excluded from a social group or being the victim of insensitive comments by other students.
“One of the key issues highlighted by the report concerns integration of overseas and home students. We have a large population of international students, many of whom are only in York for a year. We need to do more to achieve effective integration between the different groups, in colleges, in clubs and societies and in the classroom.
“The report makes a number of sensible recommendations, all of which we have said we will act on. These include making our complaints procedure and support mechanisms more visible to students across campus. In the meantime, if any student experiences problems and would like to raise them with the University, they are encouraged to speak to the Equality and Diversity Office, YUSU, GSA or their college welfare team.”
You can read the full report here.