Earlier this year, I wrote an article detailing the racism that current ethnic minority students have experienced on campus and in Falmouth and Penryn. Having received a response from the university and a clear pledge as to the actions they planned to take, I had hoped to see some progress.
“I just want to tell you face to face that I don’t like black people”
However, one of the University of Exeter students I interviewed recently reported to me that she had dropped out of the university because of the racism that she was feeling and that she felt so unsupported by the Students’ Union and the History and Politics faculty. While primarily blaming the lack of support she felt from the university, she was concerned at how often the COVID-19 pandemic was used as an excuse for why they couldn’t process and act on her complaints.
During her year at the university, she told me she reported three incidents on three separate occasions, and the university did not take action. She reported these incidents to her academic supervisor in the History department, to one of her lecturers and to a representative from the Students’ Union.
The first incident she experienced was a boy coming up to her on her first night of Freshers’ Week and saying: “I just want to tell you face to face that I don’t like black people.” When she reported it to security, the boy then confronted her aggressively and called her a “bitch”, making her feel unsafe in her university accommodation on the first night.
A group of men were throwing bottles at her and her friends
The second incident was on campus, where a group of white girls yelled the n-word at her and started laughing.
The third incident happened in Falmouth and with a group of Exeter and Falmouth students, and a group of men were throwing bottles at her and her friends.
When she was submitting her withdrawal form at the end of her first year, she was told that, if she proceeded with her withdrawal, she would have to leave her accommodation, despite the fact that it was private accommodation. She asked why that was, and the person she spoke to said that she had to be on campus despite her saying that she felt uncomfortable there because of the racism and discrimination she experienced.
She has now moved to the University of York and is finding her experience much better, having integrated into the university’s Afro-Caribbean Society quickly. She told the Anchor that she found the north of England much friendlier and said its proximity to a big urban city like Leeds has made it much easier for her to feel comfortable.
When speaking to students, many did not know about the Exeter and Falmouth anti-racism initiative and different strategies put in place, such as the Falmouth and Exeter Speak Out tool and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) webpage. Instead, integrating this information into the compulsory curriculum might be more effective in ensuring that the education and information is delivered to the people that need to hear it.
If any readers have had similar experiences, please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In response to this article, the Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union told the Anchor: “At the Students’ Union we’re saddened and outraged by any reports of racism on campus or in the local community, or inadequate experiences in the classroom for BAME students. The Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union has a zero tolerance policy towards racism and hate incidents. Please see our page on how to report a hate-crime or alternatively, for formal complaints, please visit our website.
“We believe it is incredibly important to work with as many students as possible so that all voices are heard and represented. Charlotte Agnew, President Welfare & Inclusivity, continues to work with Falmouth and Exeter Speak Out tool (for hate-crime reporting), student communities as well as heading up the Liberation Committee where the Student Voice team have established positions which specifically tackle racial equality.
“EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) sessions have been provided, by both internal and external speakers, available to all SU staff on hate crime, incidents, and how to tackle racism in Cornwall. We not only want to raise awareness of student and staff experiences of racism, but to continually find ways to educate staff and students on allyship and how to be actively anti-racist in conversations moving forward.
“Additionally, for any student who would like to discuss topics related to this article, your SU Presidents are in the process of confirming a student-led open forum (for any student to attend) to open up wider conversations of inclusion on campus. Details will be published through the SU website and social media.”