Two students claim they have been ‘racially profiled’ by Ali G staff after being stopped in connection with a stolen laptop
They were the only two targeted, and the only non-white students entering Ali G at the time
Two Manchester students have accused staff at the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons of racial profiling after they were stopped from entering the building in connection with a stolen laptop.
Laraib Gul Khan, fourth year medic and Maya Joseph-Chavez, a second year Latin American studies student, have claimed that staff in the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons racially profiled them, after stopping the pair from entering and asking for proof of Maya's student status.
Maya, who is British-Mexican was refused entry to the building, and accused of using someone else's student credentials, while Laraib, president of the UoM Medic Society, who is British-Pakistani, describes being treated with "ignorance and disrespect" by Ali G staff.
Around 11pm on Monday night, Laraib and Maya were headed into the Ali G for a late night study session. Maya, who didn't have her campus card with her used the Ali G day pass machine which enables students who've lost or forgotten their campus card to type in their student ID and uni email address, and print a day pass in order to scan into the building.
Laraib and Maya describe many other white students entering freely, while the pair's confrontation with front desk staff take place: "they had the audacity to stop the only two non-white people who were entering.
"They told Maya she was not allowed to enter until she had pulled up her My Manchester student page, and shown her photo and ID number as they didn't believe her student ID was viable."
Ali G staff claimed that they were stopped as part of a new scheme to prevent students from entering using other people's campus cards. Laraib said "I asked him why we were being interrogated, when any of the other people who had walked through in this time could have been using someone else's ID."
Laraib told The Tab Manchester that he had to make his point five times before finally receiving an answer. Security staff stated that the scheme had only been recently implicated, after a student's laptop was stolen from the building last week. They believe that the laptop that had been stolen was taken by a non-student who had found or stolen a Manchester student's ID and entered under someone else's name, so were now double-checking student IDs.
Throughout the ordeal Laraib describes the staff as being "ignorant, unprofessional and irrational. Maya was understandably flustered, and made a typo in her password, and a second time she accidentally pressed the 'caps lock' button. I tried to point out her mistake, but was told to stop talking, as I was "not the one in question".
Maya said "I logged into the computer incorrectly twice, the first time the security guard laughed at me and said 'you've got it wrong because it's not you, is it?' I felt so patronised and belittled.
"When I eventually managed to log into My Manchester, he tried to argue that my photo, taken last year, wasn't me and insisted on double checking my student number, reading it aloud number by number, comparing it with the pass I had printed.
"By the time he'd accepted that I was using my own ID I was so upset that I just told security staff I wasn't going to bother coming in, anyway".
Maya had to leave the building as she was becoming visibly upset, Laraib told us "they reduced her to tears."
Maya said: "It was clear that we had been singled out, there were many other people walking in and out of the Ali G with no trouble, and basically all of these people were not brown."
The pair did eventually confront the staff, and asked about a formal complaints process, at which point Maya describes the staff as becoming "heated and defensive".
Upon confrontation, desk staff insisted that they were "just doing their job." However, Maya felt that the analogies they used to justify their reaction were inappropriate: "they said that if the police pulled me over, I would show them my driving license, so why was I questioning being stopped in the Ali G? I just felt that this was really out of order. Firstly, you only get pulled over if you're doing something wrong. Secondly, I'm on campus I should feel safe and included, instead I just felt singled out."
Laraib recounts that he spoke with a supervisor, who was becoming "visibly frustrated."
"I was wearing my medic hoodie, which had my name and the University of Manchester logo on it, but when I mentioned this to staff they said that anyone could purchase a UoM hoodie from the campus store.
"When I asked the supervisor for the staff members' names he refused, claiming that I would slander him on Facebook. If you're a professional you shouldn't withhold information like that.
"The worst part was that in justifying themselves, they compared us to laptop thieves. It was totally unfair, and insulting that staff were insinuating that we could be criminals."
Since the incident both Maya and Laraib have logged a formal complaint with the university.
A spokesperson from the University of Manchester told The Tab Manchester: “The University is committed to creating an environment where diversity is celebrated and everyone is treated fairly.
"We will not accept any form of discrimination and all Library staff are required to undertake equality and diversity and unconscious bias training. As this incident is subject to a formal complaint we are unable to comment further until that process has been concluded."
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