‘The university must do better’: Lancaster community reacts to racism on campus
‘I think the bit that hurt the most was the porter that came to the scene literally said to me: no one cares’
A former Lancaster University student, Sa’ad Mustafā, posted a TikTok explaining an instance of racism he had faced while studying at Lancaster back in 2018. He went on to claim the university’s response was inadequate in dealing with the situation.
In his first year, Sa’ad’s door had been graffitied with a racist slur towards Pakistanis. He claimed: “The university, as their way of resolving it, kicked me out of the room, moved me to another room, and charged me for the door and the other room whilst staying in a different room.”
After two weeks, the investigation was dropped and Sa’ad claimed he was told specifically not to go to the police. By the time he did go to the police he said he was informed by them that “the university have been known for this” and they would tell others not to go to the police so that it wouldn’t be on their record. Sa’ad also claimed the university told him that if he wanted to carry on studying he had to give an apology.
Sa’ad went onto say: ‘I think the bit that hurt the most was the porter that came to the scene literally said to me: no one cares’.
The TikTok prompted outrage from the Lancaster community, and many chose to speak out on the issue, ranging from the university itself to campaign groups, societies and individual colleges.
‘I will continue to work with the Students’ Union’
In response to Sa’ad’s story, LUSU Racial and Ethnic Minority Students Officer, Max Kafula, said: “The recent TikTok video about a former Lancaster University student who has reported hate crimes is shocking and disturbing especially since this has happened on campus. Racism and hate crimes are a stain on our society and no one should ever be subjected to it. I have personally contacted Sa’ad and we are working together to seek justice.
“Students should never feel like they need to shy away from highlighting any racial incidents that take place on university campuses. Those alleged to be at fault must be held accountable and the university must do better. The University have said they are committed to the Race Equality Charter and are taking steps in addressing this type of behaviour however Sa’ad’s ‘experience gives another reason to doubt that the current system is fit for purpose.
“The university must endorse provisions under the Race & Ethnic Minority New Deal to develop robust and effective measures to improve the broken systems. I will continue to work with the students’ union to tackle racism across the university.”
Max urged students to “hold the university accountable”. H added: “We must not let them get away with this again. They want this to die down and we need to prove them wrong. Racism is a stain and to be complicit in it is even worse. We deserve better. Please stand in Solidarity with Sa’ad and please speak up when there are injustice to be found.”
‘It is not enough to just not be racist’
Also responding to the video, the Why is my Curriculum White? Campaign said: “Hearing what happened to Sa’ad is heartbreaking, and the worst part is, this incident is just one of countless others, many of which we will never even hear about. This isn’t a case of just a couple of racist students or a few negligent staff members, it is a reflection of a much larger systematic problem at our university.
“It is not enough to just ‘not be racist.’ Students and staff alike need to be actively anti-racist if we are ever going to see meaningful change. We are calling on the Students Union and Lancaster University Management to do more to tackle racism on campus, it is obvious that the existing measures are insufficient.”
The campaign are asking that people fill out this survey to enable them to “direct” their “efforts to where they are needed the most. It is vital that students speak up about what has happened to them or incidents they have witnessed, we can’t solve a problem that is continuously brushed under the rug.”
‘We as a society will always try our best to provide support’
The Lancaster University Pakistan Society spoke out on their Instagram, saying: “In light of recent events the Pakistani society is appalled by what happened to a member of our community. We strive to bring inclusivity to the university and are always trying to find new ways for people to get involved with the community.
“The Pakistani society is always there if support is needed by any of our members, or even anyone who is not involved with the society! There is a form in our bio which anyone from the university, past or present, can fill out to report any case of harassment, bullying and any kind of experience that affected your mental health. We as a society will always try our best to provide support.”
Lancaster University statement
A spokesperson for Lancaster University said: “This week we have reviewed an extensive 2018 investigation into a number of complaints and counter-complaints within a student flat. The process of the current review has included ensuring allegations (relating to racist graffiti brought forward by a student during 2017/18) were considered and dealt with appropriately.
“The 2018 investigation (progressed under the Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct and Disciplinary policies in force at that time) examined photographic and other evidence and took statements from a number of staff and students. Our records show that these processes were completed in full, a formal outcome letter was provided alongside an offer of wellbeing support and the opportunity to appeal.
“The university did a complete investigation in 2018 and has now gone on to review that in light of Saad’s claims and can’t find any evidence of them.
“In addition, a number of new allegations about University staff actions have been made on social media. Any and all such accusations will be subject to a thorough investigation.
“But, as of today, we have not been able to find any evidence to suggest that the University required this student pay for damage to their door, pay for accommodation they did not use, discouraged them go to the police, or was requested to provide an apology.
“We have also contacted the former student, inviting them to engage directly with us so we can understand the full picture, gather evidence from them and take action, wherever necessary.
“Racism is real, unjust and entirely unacceptable and as such Lancaster University wants to be part of the solution. Like many other universities, we have proactively implemented a number of policies and initiatives to reflect our true community values and to support every single member of our university. However, if one person claims to have experienced racism on our campus then this is unacceptable and we will redouble our efforts in response. We offer our heartfelt apologies to anyone in that position and strongly encourage them to report incidents either through the Student Conduct Officer or anonymously via the Unisafe app,(available on the iLancaster App) or to the Police.
“Where incidents are reported to us we will act and, if we fall short in upholding our values, we will learn and improve. We aspire to be an inclusive community where all of our members are treated with dignity and respect. Anyone experiencing racism on campus will receive our full support.”