Universities UK – Racial Harassment

We are working with Universities UK as members of a new advisory group to tackle racial harassment of staff and students at higher education institutions (HEIs). The Equality Act 2011 defines harassment as:

“…unwanted behaviour related to a relevant protected characteristic and the behaviour has the purpose or effect of:

• violating the other person’s dignity, or

• creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.”

Black British Academics’ position on this issue is that HEIs tend to focus on overt, individual acts of racial harassment. However, such behaviours are often subtle, implicit and inextricably linked to the wider issue of whiteness and White privilege that creates intersectional forms of racial harassment. Findings from our Ivory Tower Project suggest that Black women and women of colour experience both subtle and overt forms of racial harassment from students that manifest as microagressions. This includes challenging their knowledge and authority in the classroom, questioning their teaching ability and returning lower evaluations in student surveys. This is consistent with prior studies and HEIs must develop appropriate policies to address this type of racial harassment.