||The National Union of Students (NUS) has published a report looking at hate crimes and hate incidents in the higher education sector. The report, ‘No Place for Hate: Race and Ethnicity’ is the fourth in a series of reports funded by the Home Office, exploring hate crimes and hate incidents in further and higher education.
In the foreword, the report highlights the salient nature of hate crimes, stating that “In February, figures on hate crimes from the Crown Prosecution Service showed the increase in numbers of hate crime prosecutions, more than 80 per cent of which were related to race and religion.” Such figures, it argues, illustrate the critical nature of the research based on the responses of over 9000 students in higher and further education. It is “the first nationwide, student-specific research of this scale into hate crime.”
Some of the key findings of the report include the following:
The extent and nature of hate incidents
“Asian or Asian British respondents were the group most worried about being subject to abuse because of racial prejudice, with 48 per cent saying they were very or fairly worried.
“Overall, 18 per cent of black/black British, Asian/Asian British, mixed race and Chinese respondents had experienced at least one racial hate incident during their current studies. The most common types of hate incidents were verbal abuse, threats of violence or threatening behaviour.
“Broken down by ethnicity… Chinese respondents were most likely to be victims of most types of race hate incident — 30 per cent of respondents from this group had experienced at least one incident. Nineteen per cent of Asian students stated they had been victimised because of a prejudice against their racial or ethnic identity. Fourteen per cent of black/black British students and 13 per cent of mixed race students had also experienced a racial hate incident.
“Racial prejudice was believed to be a motivating factor in 30 per cent of hate incidents, constituting 11 per cent of all incidents reported.”
Behaviour change due to worries about racial prejudice
The report notes that amongst all ethnic groups, students would change their behaviour, personal appearance or daily pattern, with black/black British students being the most likely to do so. One testimonial stated that:
“I’m avoiding going to [location anonymised] because of the planned English Defence League rally, because such groups tend to assume that people of Asian descent or with Muslim beliefs are terrorists, and I don’t want to be caught in any violence because of that.”
Another testimonial gave an example of how students made attempts to hide signs of their race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality:
“If in a really western area, I’m less likely to wear Asian clothing. And I’ve stopped wearing a headscarf.”
On the issue of intersecting identity, or multiple bias and its relation to hate crimes, the report states that, “it is important to recognise that victims may have been targeted for reasons in addition to their actual or perceived race or ethnicity, for instance their religion or sexual orientation.
“…perpetrators are often motivated by more than one bias.
“With regard to religion and belief, 21 per cent of Jewish respondents, 17 per cent of Hindu respondents, 17 per cent of Muslim respondents and 14 per cent of Sikh respondents reported a racially motivated incident. By comparison, six per cent of Christian respondents, five per cent of Atheist respondents and five per cent of those with no religion reported a racially motivated incident.”
The report gives examples of where perpetrators may use racial and religious slurs interchangeably:
“… people [are] being called ‘Pakis’ for being Islamic.”
“… In the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 bombings I was verbally abused and even attacked for no reason along with several other people of Asian heritage purely because nowadays a vast quantity of people seem to think Asian or Muslim is freely interchangeable with terrorist.”
The report makes ten recommendations to further education and higher education institutions and organisations working within them, and states their interest to law enforcement practitioners and agencies as well as student unions:
1. Demonstrate a firm commitment to equality and diversity
2. Develop preventative and educational activity on prejudice and hate
3. Prevent or mitigate perpetrator behaviour
4. Establish multi-agency, joined-up approaches to tackling hate
5. Strengthen existing support services
6. Establish strong support networks
7. Encourage reporting and maintain systematic documentation and data collection of hate incidents
8. Provide flexible option for reporting
9. Promote greater confidence in reporting mechanisms
10. Clear guidance on existing legislative framework
The report highlights the salience of the issue of racism in higher education and the urgency with which it needs to be tackled. Only this week, BBC News reported on an investigation into racism in schools undertaken by the broadcaster using data obtained from ninety local authority areas. The investigation found that nearly 88,000 racist incidents were recorded in British schools between 2007 and 2011.
Commenting on the findings of the NUS report, Kanja Sesay, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, said that “Racially motivated hate crimes have not gone away and universities cannot afford to turn a blind eye any longer.”
The report is available to download here.