THE principal of the University of Dundee has apologised for the prevalence of racism within his university and indeed across Dundee. Professor Iain Gillespie, discussing a research report by the university, on the prevalence of racism noted that “there is much in the report that makes for disturbing, shocking, and uncomfortable reading”.

One of the authors of the report, Dundee University’s Professor Hari Hundal, said that “it is incredibly important to see the realities of our students and staff and the horrendous challenges faced on a daily basis”. Indeed, racism was discussed as a “pervasive” issue both on and off campus.

Having read the report there are some issues of significance that could be raised regarding racism in the university. However, there is also clearly an ideological framework through which the report develops its conclusions that needs to be recognised if we are to get a genuine sense of problems of racism in this city and this institution.

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Much is made of the student responses, but of the 16,000 students at Dundee only three percent responded to the survey. This is not a useful representative sample of either the black and ethnic minority (BAME) students, or the white students.

A statistically more useful third of staff responded to the survey. Of this number, when asked if they had witnessed or experienced racial discrimination, harassment or bullying, 76 percent of the BAME staff members said no.

It’s worth dwelling on this figure because it does not appear to fit with Professor Hundal’s representation of the “horrendous challenges faced on a daily basis” by BAME staff and students.

The question does not relate to “daily” experiences. Indeed, and unfortunately, there are no questions that give a sense of the regularity of experiencing racism – which is strange given the focus of the research.

It is likely that the staff asked have worked at Dundee for a certain amount of time, some for many years, and yet still, three quarters of BAME staff have never experienced or witnessed this type of racism.

Based on the most reliable statistical evidence from the report, the idea of pervasive, “horrendous” and “daily” racism in Dundee, is at best, questionable.

It would have been useful to have a follow up question to the 24 percent who had experienced racism at the university, but again this opportunity for some clarity about actual experiences is missed.

The authors of the report, from the outset, talk about “white privilege” and of “systemic” racism as if they are accepted facts while the survey often focuses on the feeling of BAME staff and students regarding the lack of diversity of the people in Dundee and Dundee university as a necessary problem.

Using the small number of students who responded to the survey and the even smaller number who volunteered to sit on a discussion group, all of whom were BAME students, the report finishes with quotes about the colonial nature of the curriculum, of “cultural appropriation” and “white supremacist thinking”.

The terms, categories and language used by some of these students appears to reflect that of the authors of the report and fit with a very particular understanding of racism and anti-racism that is associated with critical race theory.

Consequently, the report fails to engage objectively with the issues at hand and results in a clearly one-sided approach that elevates the problem of racism.

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The subsequent demand that there be more unconscious bias training and the suggestion of compulsory “diversity” modules that all students must pass risks turning anti-racism into a disciplinary practice, where ideas are no longer freely discussed and contested but are turned into a dogma and a new form of intellectual punishment.

That is something the principal of any university should apologise for.

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