UCL wanted to send this black student to go to Missouri on his year abroad despite serious hate crimes

Washington University suspended a fraternity for a ‘scavenger hunt’ where they photographed black students and sang racist raps


A black, muslim UCL third year has been denied the opportunity to study in America for a year, after he was allocated a place at Washington University in Missouri, where he did not feel safe to study.

Mustafa Omer complained to UCL, requesting a place at one of the other eight American universities the institution is partnered with. However, despite an NAACP travel warning for people of colour, UCL claimed he would be safe studying there. He was instead offered an inferior course at a university in Berlin.

In Missouri, there have been multiple hate crimes against people of colour, including the recent Ferguson riots.

Mustafa wrote a Twitter thread about the “blatant institutional racism”, explaining the series of events and his treatment at UCL. It now has over 2,000 retweets.

In 2015, Mustafa Omer accepted a place at UCL over LSE to study Economics because of their year abroad option at a range of American institutions.

Speaking exclusively to The Tab, Mustafa who also has an American citizenship told us: “The UCL economics with a year abroad prospectus caught me out by naming destinations such as University of California, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto etc. I never saw myself being allocated at Washington University in St Louis.”

He was allocated a place at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri during his second year of study in December and raised concerns over his safety in January 2017.

The study abroad tutor for the Economics department Dr. Marcos Vera Hernández said “there is nothing I can do”, when Mustafa raised concerns about going to Missouri in the midst of rising hate crime and racial tension, two months after Trump’s electoral victory.

According to him, all the university placements had already been allocated, although Mustafa was open to the idea of going to Canada.

Instead he was placed on the Erasmus programme to Berlin which is easy to get onto and suggestions for a split trip between Berlin and America were shut down.

Hernández told his student that he would be safe on campus ground. However, Washington University in St Louis suspended a fraternity involved in a “scavenger hunt” where they photographed black students on campus and sang raps with racial slurs.

In 2015, the University of Missouri’s President Tim Wolfe resigned over the mishandling of racial incidents starting from 2010 including cotton balls being scattered in the Oldham Black Culture Centre, swastikas drawn in halls and the Legion of Black Collegians' play rehearsals being interrupted with the n-word

In August 2017, seven months after Mustafa raised his concerns, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) issued their “first statewide travel advisory”, warning people and students of colour to travel in Missouri “at your own risk."

The warning was issued after Senate Bill 43 was passed “modifying the law relating to unlawful discrimination". This means that it will be harder for employees to prove discrimination in the workplace.

Mustafa told The Tab: “Frank Witte insisted that he was taking the NAACP warning seriously, however he also made clear that it’s not a warning that the university takes into account and acts upon. For me, actions speak louder than words.

“Apparently the NAACP warning was not enough for UCL to advise me against my placement.

Witte tried to reassure Mustafa by telling him his daughter, who is white, was studying in Missouri. He told The Tab: “They claimed they cared, but they clearly didn’t care as much as the universities who I called up and emailed to explain my situation. Many of which urged me to get the UCL study abroad office in contact with them to explore the options.”

He continued: “What makes my situation different is the fact that, if I was white, I’d be at Washington University in St Louis having the time of my life. But I’m not and that’s put me at a disadvantage, and I can no longer pursue a dream of mine as a result.”

The Tab contacted UCL for comment. A spokesperson said: “UCL is aware of the case and one of its senior staff who is responsible for anti-racism has made contact with the student and will look into the issues raised with the relevant UCL departments in an attempt to resolve the situation.

“As an institution, we take seriously our role in combating racism in all forms and have in place comprehensive policies to do so.

“We also have a student support and wellbeing office that is available to provide comprehensive for students in situations such as these. They too have been alerted to the case.”