On October 3rd, The University Express compiled a survey entitled “Racism in UCC”, designed with the intent of highlighting instances of on-campus racism which would otherwise go unseen. The survey was sent out via e-mail to every student currently attending UCC.
The survey was short and simple, consisting of eight questions, including the option for students to leave any additional comments they wished to make. The survey ran for a total of eighteen days, and was closed on October 21st, having received a total of 137 responses from individual UCC students. Below is a detailed run-through of the survey and the statistics gathered. I have listed the results of each question as percentages of the 137 participants, as well as including any further necessary information.
Question 1: What gender do you identify as?
The participants were mostly Female (58.8%), as opposed to the Male minority of 38.2%. Individuals identifying as Non-Binary made up 2.1% of the participants. One participant chose not to share their gender, identifying themselves as an “individual” (0.7%)
Question 2: What ethnicity do you most identify with?
Participants were free to create their own answer for this question, leading to a wide mix of different responses, as well as some participants choosing to withhold their ethnicity. For the sake of brevity, the responses have been compiled into a list.
White Irish: 16.9%
The remaining responses consisted of an array of different ethnicities and cultural identities, which were represented by no more than one or two participants. These included: African; Dutch; Eastern European; Hispanic; Indian; Malaysian; Middle Eastern; Mixed; Muslim; Nigerian. Participants who failed to provide their ethnicity accounted for 2.9% of the final results.
While this may not appear as diverse a sample as one might have hoped for, it is important to note that the survey also aimed to shed light on instances of racism towards marginalised groups, which may include people of Caucasian ethnicity, such as the Irish traveller community. Another factor to consider is that the survey also asked participants if they had ever been a witness to racism on campus, a question which is applicable to all students, regardless of ethnicity.
Question 3: As a UCC student, do you feel that racism is a major issue in UCC?
A Note From The Editor: This question was added to the survey after the initial publication date. As a result, it received 100 responses, as opposed to the 137 responses received by all other questions in the survey.
This was the least divisive of all questions featured in the survey. The response was a resounding ‘No’, with 91% of participants responding that racism would not be classed as a “major issue” in UCC. A minority 9% of participants felt that racism is in fact a “major issue” on campus.
It is clear from this result that on-campus racism isn’t seen to be a pressing concern by the majority of UCC students, and that there is a general sense of cultural integration and cohesiveness on campus. However, it’s important to note that this is not a perfect result. For 9 people out of a small sample size of 100 to think that racism is a prevalent and serious issue in our college is quite worrying to say the least.
Question 4: Have you ever personally experienced racism in/around UCC?
This question received perhaps the most eye-opening response of all questions asked in the survey. A total of 11.8% of all students surveyed responded that they had personally been the victims of racism during their time at UCC – that’s 16 people out of the 137 respondents, or 1 in 9.
What is more worrying, perhaps, is that of the 25 survey participants who identified with a non-white ethnicity, 10 students revealed that they had personally been the victims of racist abuse in/around UCC campus. That’s 40% – almost half – of all non-white students surveyed. As an extension of this question, students were given the opportunity to write a short account of what they had experienced. 14 different students gave personal accounts of instances where they had been subjected to racist abuse in/around campus.
One student, identifying as Chinese, revealed that she had been the victim of “Lads yelling rude and inappropriate comments based on [her] skin colour”. She was told to “Go back home”. There were several similar accounts from students who had experienced racial slurs being shouted at them on campus. Another female student, who identified as Asian, shared that “As [she] is the only International and Muslim student in the department, [she] faces discrimination in treatment from some (not all) students and from [her] supervisor”. A black female student revealed that she had been “taken for a cleaning lady, suggested to go back home, taken for a thief” and referred to as “mulatto”.
While it may be easy to look at the statistics as a whole and be complacent, it’s not the right thing to do. It’s not the correct attitude to take. 10 different students who have been personally subjected to racist abuse is 10 students too many. For some students, these are more than just statistics. They are traumatic, degrading experiences; and they can’t just be swept under the rug.
Question 5: Have you ever witnessed racism in/around UCC?
The deeply unsettling statistics and stories collected thus far were only worsened by the fact that 21.3% of students revealed that they had personally witnessed acts of racism in UCC. As was the case for Question 4, students were once again asked to give a short account of what they had experienced. 22 students offered personal accounts of what they had witnessed.
One student disclosed that she had witnessed a Class Rep “complaining about international students being in competition with Irish students for internships”. The Class Rep reportedly further stated that “this wasn’t fair because they should be “interning in their own country””. Another student revealed that they had witnessed “vulgar comments aimed at Asian people and mockery of foreign staff, such as crude stereotypes of their country of origin, mocking their accent and their style of teaching”.
Many of the participants gave similar accounts of witnessing “racist slurs” and “jokes” being made towards ethnic minorities in UCC. These responses showed a general trend of racism directed towards Asian people, with reports of participants witnessing racist comments being made such as “they all look the same”. One report described an inebriated man shouting “Jackie Chan” at an Asian female student. Further witness reports included “someone yell[ing] racist slurs at an Indian student doing SCS during Freshers week”, as well as “two Muslim girls being spat on shortly after the Manchester bombing”.
It’s evident, sadly, that there is a culture of casual racism and use of racial slurs on campus; as well as individual instances of direct harassment and even spitting.
Question 6: On a scale of 1 to 10, how severe of a problem is racism in UCC, in your opinion?
Similar to the results collected from Question 3, this question revealed a general attitude among students that racism in UCC is not deemed to be a serious problem. For this question, students were given the option of submitting a number from 1-10, depending on how grave of a problem they felt racism in UCC to be. ‘1’ being “not a problem at all” and ‘10’ being “a very serious problem”.
Of the 137 surveyed, 66.2% of students felt that the severity of racism in UCC was a ‘3’ or lower on the scale. 19.8% of students felt that the severity of on-campus racism would be classed between ‘4’ and ‘6’ on the scale. 11% responded with ‘7’ and 2.9% responded with ‘8’. No students felt that the severity of racism deemed being classified as a ‘9’ or a ‘10’.
While the general consensus among respondents was that racism is a problem of low significance in UCC, the sizeable portion of students who felt otherwise cannot be ignored. Almost 22% of students (30 individuals) classed the severity of racism in UCC as ‘5’ or higher on the scale. It is interesting to note that, of the 30 students who felt that the severity of racism in UCC was a ‘5’ or higher, 17 (56.6%) were students who did not identify their ethnicity as being Caucasian. The 17 students who selected ‘5’ or higher contained a majority of non-white students, with ethnicities such as “Asian”; “black”; “Chinese”; “Muslim” and “mixed” featuring prominently on the list.
Question 7: Do you think racism is being discussed enough on campus?
A telling statistic, only 31 students out of 137 (23%) felt that racism is being given sufficient grounds for discussion in UCC. 89 students (65.9%) answered explicitly ‘No’, that racism is not an adequately prominent topic of discussion on campus. The remaining 11.1% of responses featured individual feedback from undecided students, such as “it depends on the course”, and that racism is not discussed “in an effective manner”.
For only 23% of students to categorically state that racism is being given enough room for discussion is a definite indicator that changes need to be made. These figures represent a clear and definite consensus among the student body that the issue of racism needs to be given more attention on campus.
Question 8: Do you feel that UCC’s governing bodies are doing enough to combat the issue of racism in/around UCC?
The responses to this question were among the most equally split in the entire survey. 47% of those surveyed responded ‘Yes’ – that UCC’s governing bodies are doing sufficient work to fight racism on campus. While this was the largest proportion of responses, it technically isn’t a majority. 41% of students responded ‘No’, that the governing bodies of UCC are not currently doing enough work in the area of anti-racism, with the remaining 12% of students responding with neither a ‘Yes’ nor ‘No’, giving personal ambiguous answers. 5 students gave the response of “not sure”. One student stated “I’m not sure, but being white means that I can sometimes be blind to issues of race”.
Following the survey, The University Express reached out to Dr. Karl Kitching, head of the EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) Unit in UCC, to learn more about the issue of racism on campus. When asked if he had seen instances of racism in his capacity as head of the EDI unit and as a UCC staff member, Dr. Kitching responded: “Absolutely. I’ve seen it’s more casual than anything to do with an attack. UCC is not separate from Irish society, it’s part of Irish society, therefore, racism absolutely does happen”. Similarly, when posed the same question, Dave Carey, head of the Peer Support programme in UCC, noted that “Peer Support Leaders (PSLs) deal directly with the students in a confidential manner so with all of that caveated, while rare in my experience, yes instances of racism have been brought to my attention by Peer Support Leaders”.
The Student’s Union were sent this article and the data collected by the survey prior to its publication. When asked for comment, they said “Racism permeates across all levels of society and UCC is not disconnected from this issue. The Students’ Union ran elections for the International Officer and Racial and Ethnic minorities Officer, however, no students ran for either position but should there be interest, please reach out to the Equality Officer to sit on the Equality Working Group”.