Opinion: "Hollow words and empty promises" from our university.
Written by Keith Minami
"BLM" by Folci Masi / Unsplash
To put it bluntly, the University of St Andrews’s response to the recent global reckoning regarding systemic racism has been pathetic. The fact that we have heard little from those who hold positions of power within the university is not only shocking, but shows a blatant disregard for the well-being of BIPOC students and staff and a dereliction of duty on the part of the university’s leadership. Therefore, I challenge the university to take the input and criticisms of BIPOC seriously and to enact real and concrete changes that will fundamentally challenge the basal prejudices upon which this university was founded.
The University of St Andrews has been noticeably silent. Why have we only heard from students? Where is the leadership? Where are the strong condemnations against the racism that runs so deeply in this institution which has long existed and profited off of the power structures that discredit the work and labour of BIPOC?
The university community recently received a tone-deaf email from Professor Sally Mapstone telling us all that we, unlike the multitude of Black lives murdered at the hands of systemic police violence, can for the ‘most part…. breathe’. Not only is this erasure of the socioeconomically disadvantaged students of the university, but also shows a blithe and complicit acceptance of the privileged position of many students. This is hardly the tip of the iceberg in terms of the racist actions that the university has either ignored and/or actively supported; from ‘Bongo Ball’, to the Eurocentric curriculum (with a tendency to glorify the colonial exploits of the British Empire), to the everyday racist transgressions that BIPOC students face, the university has actively shied away from or completely dismissed calls for change. As a leading institution of learning in the UK, the University of St Andrews has an obligation to address and ameliorate the inequalities of BIPOC students and staff.
This past week has merely been the latest in what has been centuries of this university’s refusal toward introspection. For too long I have read lengthy emails talking about how people will ‘learn’ and how times like these highlight our ‘need for discourse’. How many more emails will we read that peddle out the same hollow words and empty promises? The time for action is abhorrently overdue.
It appears that after extensive criticism, Professor Sally Mapstone has decided to send the university community a lengthy email this morning detailing various actions the university has taken in order to address the issue of racism. While the university is undoubtedly taking steps to address this issue, the email still turns a blind eye to accountability. It isn’t enough to do better while ignoring the past. Arguably, to progress one needs serious introspection and that begins with holding people accountable. This latest email proves that Professor Sally Mapstone has no intention of doing so.
Systemic racism is systemic because it is intrinsically rooted in the system. It is a omnipresent, malicious, and palpable threat to those who experience it on a day to day basis. This is most certainly not the first time that the issue of racism has been brought up to the administration. At a certain point, real change cannot be enacted without structural change. The structure of the university is, to a large extent, the administration. As long as these round tables or forums are presided over by the very same people who have always previously ignored the concerns of BIPOC students, what other course of action is there?That is what I wish to ‘debate’.