Over 35 St Andrews students and graduates complain of racism and homophobia

St Andrews students are using a new Instagram account to share experiences of racism at the uni

St Andrews has been told to respond to complaints of racism and homophobia with “utmost seriousness” after 38 students and graduates said they had experienced discrimination as the university.

The claims were made by students on the Instagram page Hidden Voices of St Andrews.

One St Andrews student said they were called a “n*gro” and another said a group of students sent her anti-semitic messages mentioning Hitler and her “Jewish nose”.

A number of overseas students complained of being patronised by British students.

A medical student reported coughing at the start of a clinical skills tutorial, and being asked by the supervisor: “You’re not from Wuhan are you?”

The student complained: “I am far from looking like I am Chinese (though that’s not the point), maybe I am being overdramatic but I did not appreciate his question at all.”

The page’s administrators said it was an “anonymous platform for BAME and LGBTQI+  for members of our community who have been silenced by peers, colleagues or university administration due to their race, gender identity or sexual orientation”.

Instagram accounts have been used increasingly by students to create safe spaces to share their experiences with others at St Andrews.

Anonymous posts on Instagram account St Andrews Survivors began over the summer.

The account aims to empower “survivors of sexual violence at the University of St Andrews by amplifying their stories”.

It has over 6,300 followers and over 230 posts detailing sexual misconduct at the university.

Anas Sarwar, chairman of Holyrood’s cross-party group on tackling Islamophobia, said the comments were “sickening examples of everyday racism” and reminded St Andrews that universities had a duty of care to their students.

The Scottish Conservative culture spokesman Maurice Golden said the complaints needed to be treated with the “utmost seriousness”.

Earlier this month, St Andrews launched a new reporting tool which provides access to support regarding harassment, abuse, sexual violence and discrimination of any kind.

A University spokesperson said: “We urge people to read the testimonies on the Hidden Voices page. These are the important voices of people in our community documenting their experiences of casual intolerance and everyday racism.

“They are not complaints about the way this University handles allegations of racist behaviour, nor do they describe a problem which is any way specific to St Andrews. Rather they shine a light on the sorts of unconscious bias and micro-aggressions which minorities encounter much more widely in communities across this country, and elsewhere.

“The fact that our students are prepared to speak out about their experiences in this way is in itself a hugely positive thing. The testimonies show that where these behaviours or remarks are challenged, change and resolution tend to follow quickly.

“Even the brightest students, and staff, in the land need to work hard to dismantle prejudices that reinforce inequality and harm, which some clearly do not realise they perpetuate.

“The importance of this work to the aspirations of our University could not be clearer – with Diversity at the heart of our Strategic Plan; no less than 25 separate projects underway to promote equality and inclusion; and ongoing investment in training, reporting, welfare support and a new Report and Support tool to support anonymous reporting.

“The best antidote to racism, homophobia, sexism and prejudice is contact. That is what St Andrews education provides – contact with students from around the globe, new perspectives, and different cultures and religions.

“From contact emerges conflict, challenging conversations, understanding, and the opportunity to lift each other out of prejudice. That is what we see happening across campus, and now what we see happening online. The University is working with student leaders to provide all possible support, including training, education and welfare provision.”

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