No, racism is not rife in our universities

Stats from a Guardian investigation actually prove the opposite of what its authors claim.

Andrew Doyle
Topics Politics UK

Racism is a cancer that can never be tolerated in a civilised society. Even to write these words feels redundant, given we are fortunate enough to live in a country in which those who are openly racist are, quite rightly, treated as pariahs. For all its flaws, the drive for political correctness in the late Eighties and early Nineties did succeed in ensuring that we developed a civilised consensus when it comes to discrimination and what constitutes polite discourse. That it morphed into the censorial and bigoted ‘woke’ movement is an unfortunate consequence we are still struggling to redress.

That said, it is reassuring that a new Guardian investigation of UK universities has confirmed that racism is now very much the exception rather than the norm. Data collected from 131 universities revealed that over the past five years there have been 996 formal complaints of racism, of which 367 were upheld. This means that, on average, there were only 1.5 formal complaints of racism each year in any given institution. In other words, racism in higher education is now vanishingly rare.

But you wouldn’t know it from the Guardian’s coverage. ‘Revealed: the scale of racism at universities’, ran the headline. Racism, we are told, is ‘widespread’ and ‘endemic’. Clickbait politician David Lammy, whose last shred of credibility was surely obliterated by his claim that the European Research Group is worse than Nazis, had this to say: ‘It is absolutely clear from these findings that many universities are not treating racism with the seriousness it deserves. If universities do not act fast to change the culture, from the lecture hall to the student union, talented students from BME backgrounds will continue to be locked out.’ A follow-up comment piece in the Guardian asseverated that the study ‘demonstrates a lack of progress that borders on the obstinate’.

So, why is it that a study whose findings conclusively prove that racism in universities is not endemic is being used as evidence of endemic racism? How is it that 73 upheld complaints of racism in any given year from a university population of a few million is not seen as a success story? By what possible standards could this be said to be ‘widespread evidence of discrimination’, as the Guardian claims?

This is what happens when activism is prioritised over journalistic standards. The Guardian’s conclusions seem to rely on personal accounts of what is perceived to be ‘institutional’ prejudice. This means that horrifically racist incidents – ‘a group of white students came up to me and my boyfriend and started jumping around like monkeys and calling us niggers’ – are conflated with the sort of identitarian grievances that are causing so much division in society: ‘The faculty is all white British and mostly mediocre. The curriculum is white, and hardly decolonised. And most of the students are, of course, white.’ It is an insult to those who have been racially abused to suggest that their ordeals are in any way comparable to being required to read too many works by white authors.

There is a profound difference between ‘assaults’ and ‘microaggressions’, which the Guardian’s report entirely fails to take into account. Instead, it assumes that anecdotal instances of the latter support the case that racism is far more commonplace than the new data itself suggests. In other words, the fact that so few instances of racism are reported is taken as proof of a general failure of university authorities to understand how racism should be defined.

Priyamvada Gopal, an academic at Cambridge University, believes that ‘complainants get exhausted and give up simply because there is no comprehension of what racism is. There is either outright denial, “gaslighting” or minimising.’

It goes without saying that accusations of racism should be taken seriously, and that it is certainly possible that there have been some failings in this regard which ought to be addressed. But does this mean that no objective evidential threshold should be applied, other than the perception of the complainant?

Take the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign, where students urged Oxford University to remove the statue of the British colonialist Cecil Rhodes which adorns Oriel College. One leading protester, Ntokozo Qwabe, claimed that the statue was evidence that Oxford was ‘institutionally racist’ and that to preserve it was tantamount to ‘violence’ against the black community. To question the validity of this interpretation might well be dismissed as ‘gaslighting’ by many activists, but surely such extraordinary claims should not go unchallenged.

Even our law-enforcement agencies have now accepted this creed, prioritising ‘the perception of the victim’ above all other empirical facts, and even stating that ‘evidence of… hostility is not required for an incident or crime to be recorded as a hate crime or hate incident’. Such disturbing negligence of due process is the inevitable consequence of intersectional theory gaining traction among the most powerful in society.

The contortions of logic it has taken for the Guardian to twist its findings into an alarmist frontpage story about ‘endemic’ racism are astounding. But as society has become more progressive, it is in the interests of activists to convince themselves that the situation is getting worse. This kind of sleight of hand not only generates resentment among the falsely accused — it also demeans genuine victims of racial intolerance. To question the Guardian’s conclusions might well leave us exposed to accusations of ‘gaslighting’, but it is a risk we must take if we are going to be serious about combatting the true instances of racial discrimination that still blight our society.

Andrew Doyle is a stand-up comedian and spiked columnist. He is also the co-founder of Comedy Unleashed, London’s free-thinking comedy club. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewdoyle_com

Picture by: Getty.

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Mark Lambert

11th July 2019 at 6:43 pm


“micro-aggressions” and “gaslighting”.

Some months ago the Victoria Derbyshire BBC program covered “Islamophobia”.
A guest in the studio, a lady, was saying that she had experienced it.
Victoria asked for a specific example.

There was something about “an arm” so the mind rushed to a punch in the arm, but it was vague in description.
So Victoria asked for more “what exactly was this?”
Eventually, after even more pushing on the subject, it turned out to be a sort of “arm to arm” contact in the street which the lady took to be deliberate.

Well okay, what else?
She then said “micro-aggressions” and “gaslighting”.
At this point, I gave up, and it seemed so did Victoria because she didn’t bother asking what on earth she meant by those terms.

gershwin gentile

11th July 2019 at 3:42 pm

I can completely believe that the “leftie Corbyn luvin’ student trots” are full of bigoted bile. Who wouldn’t? Apart from aforementioned “student trots”.

Neil McCaughan

11th July 2019 at 2:33 pm

“Racism is a cancer that can never be tolerated in a civilised society. ”
Another excellent reason for ending all immigration, and punishing those responsible for it.

Jerry Owen

11th July 2019 at 12:47 pm

Good article from Mr Doyle.
If the Guardian didn’t have hysterical pieces like this it would have sunk years ago, it is the bible for SJW’s the woke and the unhinged to the point of explosion such as Amelia Cantor.
When I read the Guardian online the biggest pleasure I get is at the end of an article where they beg for my money… f**k off I say in my minds eye !

Amelia Cantor

11th July 2019 at 10:21 am

This is ridiculous. The only authentic judges of racism and other forms of hate are THOSE WHO SUFFER FROM IT. And innumerable voices of colour have called out British universities for racism.

Or rather, not “innumerable”, because voices of colour are woefully under-represented in terms of the university system, especially at the highest levels.

Doyle is a cis-gender white male. He benefits from racism. Of course he’s going to pretend that it’s not there when, blatantly, it is.

Melissa Jackson

11th July 2019 at 11:10 am

Ok, let’s take your claim at face value – That there is blatant and obvious racism in universities.

If this is true, then you would have to admit that decades of policies aimed at reducing racism have failed, and in fact have only increased racism.

So why are you asking for further action, if those actions increase racism? If one really wanted to reduce racism, one would be forced to argue that all present measures should be abandoned. At an absolute minimum, those measures haven’t worked at all, because. By your own admission there is pervasive racism. So they must end, and that must be the first thing you argue for.

Amelia Cantor

12th July 2019 at 9:47 am

Read this sloooooowly so it sinks in. Racism won’t end while the people who benefit from racism are still in charge. And the people who benefit from racism are, maximally, cis-gender white males like Doyle, Trump, Farage, Johnson, etc, etc, etc ad maximam nauseam.

Jerry Owen

11th July 2019 at 12:39 pm

And as predictable up pops Amelia Cantor.. who can sniff out racism a mile off.
Complete with shouty upper case letters just in case we didn’t realize her superior credentials !

Amelia Cantor

12th July 2019 at 9:49 am

Again, why are you making this about me when there are many PEOPLE OF COLOUR who have also “sniffed” racism “a mile off”? Are they lying? Are they delusional?

Thankfully, people like you are on the wrong side of history and will soon be on the right side of the daisies. I.e., under them, six feet down.

Ed Turnbull

11th July 2019 at 12:46 pm


Question: are you Titania McGrath writing under a nom de plume?

Andrew, do you have a new alter-ego? 😉

Amelia Cantor

12th July 2019 at 9:52 am

Doyle’s “edgy” comedy is celebrated in Murdoch’s Times. That tells you how threatening Titania McGrath is to the establishment. He’s a smug cis-gender white male laughing at the genuine pain of genuine people. But one day he’ll laugh on the other side of his face.

Jerry Owen

11th July 2019 at 12:48 pm

You should try reading Trevor Phillips findings they may educate you somewhat.

Neil McCaughan

11th July 2019 at 2:31 pm

That’s quite funny, though Doyle’s alter ego, Titania McGrath, does that sort of thing better. Also you forgot to use the word “intersectional” and failed to claim the financial compensation due you, because of, er, stuff.

Daniel Kaufman

11th July 2019 at 6:14 pm

“Voices of color?” Are you a parody.

Amelia Cantor

12th July 2019 at 9:53 am

Check out:

Can’t see any parody there.

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