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!

Fighting racism in the UK – what Socialist Alternative says

Build the BLM and anti-racist movement

  • The protests so far have already had an impact – the establishment fear further removal of racist statues and are in the process of removing some themselves! Now is the time to continue and escalate the movement to fight for real change.
  • Set up BLM organising groups in every town and city! Democratic organisation is vital to make sure that protests are mobilised for properly, the movement is accountable to those participating in it and the demands can be discussed and agreed.
  • Organise against the far-right! There have already been plans made for counter-protests from far-right groups such as the ‘Democratic’ Football Lads Alliance and followers of ‘Tommy Robinson’. The anti-racist movement will need to push these back and show they are a minority of the population who are not welcome on our streets. The trade unions, organising over 6 million workers, should mobilise in support of this and stop the far-right wherever they appear – use the traditions of the battle of Cable Street and Brick Lane – where hundreds of thousands of multiracial workers and young people fought the racists and fascists – as examples for today.
  • For a 9-minute protest strike! Walkouts of hundreds of thousands from work for 9 minutes – the amount of time Officer Derek Chauvin pressed on George Floyd’s neck – would have a huge impact. It should be during work hours and the trade unions should actively join and link up with the movement for Black Lives, showing the power of the working class in being able to bring the country to a standstill.

Resist racist policing

  • Defend the right to protest – no trust in the police to keep us safe! We need to organise against aggressive policing such as charging crowds on horses, the use of kettling, tear gas etc. Protests must have elected stewards from the movement to democratically organise self-defence of the movement.
  • End the use of stop and search! Police officers can currently stop and search people in certain areas even if they don’t have a reasonable suspicion and Black people are 10 times more likely to be stopped than white people. It has been found to not be effective and means unnecessary and racist police harassment for many people – it needs to be scrapped!
  • Organise genuine independent inquiries into deaths in police custody! We must reject the so-called ‘Independent Office for Police Conduct’ – it is not independent and has never found a police officer guilty for the murder of people who have died in police custody. We need to organise a democratic people’s inquiry – led by the victim’s families, elected representatives of the BLM movement, the trade unions and other anti-racist organisations.
  • Disband the armed units of the police! Armed police on the streets and on protests needs to end, as well as the spying and infiltration by the police and ‘intelligence agencies’ into campaign groups and political organisations. We need a reorganisation of the police service, under democratic community and trade union-led control, including the hiring and firing of officers and making decisions about police priorities, where the budget should be spent etc, so that it can be used to protect ordinary people, not the property of the rich.,

End economic inequality

  • Fight for Black lives! Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted BAME people at least in part due to the problems associated with the poverty and overcrowding which BAME communities disproportionately suffer, and because of the high numbers who work on the frontline – in the NHS, as cleaners and other essential workers. The struggle for PPE and safe working conditions has to be part of the anti-racist struggle. The fight for essential workers is also a fight for black lives!,
  • End migrant charges in the NHS! The health service should be free at the point of use for all. Link up with the health workers movement to demand an end and reversal of all cuts, closures and privatisation in the NHS. Build for the NHS weekend of action on the 4th-5th July.
  • £15 hour minimum wage and an end to zero-hours contracts! As Martin Luther-King said, “What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?”. The struggle for a living wage, proper contracts with guaranteed hours and rights as work must be part of the anti-racist movement.The trade unions must take up the issues of how BAME people are overrepresented in low-paid jobs and unemployment figures by helping to get people organised, demanding a pay rise and an end to casualised work.
  • End Discrimination in the workplace! The BAME workforce continues to suffer racist behaviour and abuse in the workplace; and are overlooked for both recruitment and promotion. Disciplinary cases under management control are often unfairly weighed against BAME workers. Equal Opportunity policies are meaningless when the workforce balance does not reflect the overall BAME population numbers, or are blind to racist behaviour at work. Trade Unions must enforce genuine workplace equality by fighting for democratic workers’ control over recruitment and other workplace issues.
  • Rent control and council house building now! The housing crisis is an epidemic particularly affecting BAME people. We need to organise for an end to overcrowded, unsafe and unaffordable housing. Rent control needs to be brought in to stop the exploitation by greedy private landlords and we need a massive council-house building programme to be implemented.,

End racism, end capitalism – fight for socialism!

  • Decolonise education! We need to popularise the real revolutionary history of the movement against slavery and for liberation of all those oppressed. The movement should discuss and learn from the history of the slave revolts e.g. the Haitian Revolution, as well as the disgraceful British imperialist adventures which enslaved and colonised millions of innocent people, and what that means for today. Britain’s role in the slave trade was driven by the capitalist profit system. Honour those fighters for the liberation of slaves by uprooting capitalism today!,
  • Justice for Windrush and Grenfell victims! Windrush and Grenfell are just two examples of the scandalous disregard for black lives by the British establishment. We need to demand justice – for the right to remain and British citizenship for the Windrush generation and the right to asylum for all those who need it, for the immediate housing of Grenfell victims in council homes, including requisition of unoccupied housing, a genuine inquiry and the charging of corporate murder of those responsible.
  • You can’t have capitalism without racism – we need system change! Capitalism cannot be reformed to remove inequality and oppression. We need a fundamental change in the way in which society is run – we need socialism, where wealth and resources are publicly owned and democratically planned collectively by workers, young people, trade unions and communities in the interests of the majority. Those active in the anti-racist movement should also get organised in Socialist Alternative. Together we can build a revolutionary party which can overthrow capitalism – a system built on the blood of the working class, poor and oppressed – and replace it with genuine freedom, equality and cooperation.