‘I dropped out because the racism was so bad’: QUB students speak out about campus racism

One transferred to Manchester

A QUB student has described how she would sometimes “cry the entire journey home” because of the amount of racist abuse she received on campus.

After months of crying on the way home from uni, Georgie finally decided she’d had enough of the racism on campus and in the city. “There were always some racist comments when I went out to clubs”, she said.

Eventually, she decided to drop out and move to Manchester to continue her law degree.

However, Georgie’s experience is unfortunately not unique, and many students are beginning to speak out about their experiences of racism on the QUB campus.

Following a QUB Love post by an anonymous student, who opened up on their experiences with racism as an international student in Belfast, more have shared their stories. In the post, the student described how they “just can’t take all the racism from Northern Irish people anymore”.

They said: “I always cry myself to sleep and wonder why I even came to this place”, and were considering dropping out and transferring to an English university, in the hope of an easier university experience with less or ideally no racist encounters.

The lived experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) is something which has come under intense criticism in Northern Ireland. In data revealed at the beginning of this year, The Tab reported that QUB is the whitest Russell Group university in the UK, with 95.87 per cent of students being white.

There are concerns that this is a reflection of the wider social makeup of racial minorities in Northern Ireland, with only 0.2 per cent of the population being Black according to the 2011 Census.

Whilst the present Black Lives Matter movement has issued many discussions about the lived experiences of those who endure racism, this conversation is one which has also been taking place across university campuses and social media platforms, evidenced even through the existence of the Instagram account of for example, @black_andirish

Yet again, the issue has been raised because we are not doing enough to dismantle oppressive attitudes, a problem which we should especially be conscious of in post-conflict Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Tab spoke to two students about their lived experiences of racism on campus, and whether they believed it was a problem which required urgent tackling.

QUB student Georgie Kulkhan Albaythani transferred to Manchester because of the amount of racism which she received on campus. She said: “There were always some racist comments when I went out to clubs.

“The accommodation staff were my worst experience by far however. The constant harassment. Calling security. Shouting at me or my boyfriend in front of people”. Georgie described the impact which the experience had on her mental health. This led to two nervous breakdowns and two suicide attempts.

Georgie, who is from Blackpool, described how she would get the ferry home quite a lot, as it was only £20 return. “I’d cry the entire journey home,” she said. Since relocating to Manchester, Georgie said: “I walked in on my first day and was so surprised to see so many people of colour. I felt so comfortable. I’ve experienced no racism from the general public”.

“I think NI isn’t ready to be multicultural. I think you can’t get everyone to see people equally race-wise if you are still dividing people on whether they are Protestant or Catholics. This is ironic because my mother is a white Catholic and my dad is a brown Muslim. My Mum’s family moved to England in the first place because of The Troubles.”

Describing the lack of safe places in the city, Georgie referred to Botanic as being one place that made her feel safe. However, she questioned, “why all the non-white businesses and social hubs are condensed into one minuscule political ward… I hope that Belfast catches up with cities like Manchester or London.”

One student, Kirsten* wished to remain anonymous so they could speak freely, told us how QUB failed to suspend a student who racially abused them.

They described how after receiving racism from another student in their accommodation, QUB did not suspend this person and instead moved them to a different accommodation instead.

They believe the problem with cultural diversity in Northern Ireland is that it stems from how overwhelmingly white the social makeup is here.

They added that this can only be addressed by having open conversations about white privilege and acknowledging our own biases which are feeding into the cancerous dialogue of societal racism across both NI and more specifically on QUB campus.

A spokesperson for QUB said that the university “is committed to creating and sustaining a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for all – to ensure our staff and students, from here and abroad, are treated fairly and with respect, as reflected by the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy”.

“In line with the University’s core values, Queen’s expects all of its staff and students treat each other with dignity and respect” and that, “the University will investigate all complaints about racism and the relevant disciplinary measures will be applied as appropriate.”

In a statement earlier this year, Geraldine McGahey, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission said: “All sectors of our society should be concerned about racism and make every effort to eradicate it. Racism is not acceptable and has no place in Northern Ireland in the 21st century”.