January 13, 2020
Students at the University of Sheffield are to be given training in how to tackle “subtle but offensive” racism witnessed at the institution.
Sheffield University Students Given Anti-Racism Classes To Stamp Out Offensive Comments
The university has announced plans to recruit Race Equality Champions, which it says will help to change thinking about racism and give students the skills to deal with so-called “microaggressions”.
According to the Sheffield Student Union website, a microaggression is a “subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional”.
It lists a series of examples, including black and minority ethnic (BME) students  being asked “Nah… but where you really from?”, “Why is black-face weird?” and “being asked if I feel ‘more white or black’”.
Sheffield said its new champions will be trained to lead “healthy conversations” on campus and in university residences, and to help their fellow students understand racism and its impact.
All students will be encouraged to attend the sessions, with content developed by students and academics.
The discussions are designed “to encourage students to have healthy, open discussions, express their opinions and think critically about issues such as the Windrush scandal, perceptions of racism in British society and microaggressions”, the university said.Professor Koen Lamberts, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “Here at Sheffield, we think it’s important to be open and honest about racism, which is why we listened to our students and worked closely with our students’ union and our BME committee to develop the race equality champion roles to change the way people think about racism.
“These champions will give our students the skills to challenge micro-aggressions now and in the future. They will also ensure students are aware of the support available to them at the University of Sheffield.”
Rosa Tully, women’s officer of the University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union, said: “Standing up to racism and celebrating our diverse university and Sheffield community is a priority for students at Sheffield, so we’re proud to have worked with the university to introduce race equality champions.
“The sessions are designed to facilitate healthy, open discussions – and to give students the tools to think critically about race in our society, to challenge micro-aggressions that have a real impact on BME students and to be actively anti-racist in our thinking.”
The move comes as universities are under increasing pressure to take action to address harassment and misconduct on campus.
In October, a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that racial harassment is taking place at an “alarmingly high rate” across British universities.
At least 24% of ethnic minority students have experienced racial harassment on campus, it said, adding that many universities are unaware of the scale of the problem and are over-confident in their ability to respond to it.
Last week, the Office for Students announced proposals that could see institutions face sanctions if they fail to deal with reports of harassment and sexual misconduct.
From “we hate the blacks” being chanted across halls of residence at Nottingham Trent University students and a banana being thrown at a Black student during an ice hockey match at Sheffield Hallam University, to racist and anti-Semitic messages being shared via a Facebook group at the University of Warwick suspended 11 students, racism in UK universities has often hit headlines. 
These incidents prompted Baroness Valerie Amos, the UK’s first black woman to lead a university, to call for for the country’s higher learning institutions to “make race equality a priority” in a Guardian column.  Related... We Must Pay Attention To The Quieter Racial Bias At Play In Our Universities Who Are We Kidding, Racism Is An Open Secret At Universities Black And Brown Mums Like Me Are Judged Differently. Here's How I Know
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