Socialist Worker

Students organise to kick the racists off campuses

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2637

Anti-racists are the majority

Anti-racists are the majority (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Students and lecturers at three universities are organising to drive racism and bigotry off their campuses.

As far right groups use the defence of “free speech” to organise, students in Oxford, Cambridge and Newcastle are fighting to stop bigotry gaining legitimacy.

Academics and students at Oxford university hit out last week against a professor who once wrote that being gay is “never a valid, humanly ­acceptable choice and form of life”.

More than 400 people signed a petition calling for John Finnis to be sacked for articles and essays that describe same sex relationships as “morally corrupt”.

He has also written about migration in language similar to Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech.

In 2009 Finnis wrote that European countries faced “demographic and cultural decay”, “ethnic and religious inter-communal miseries of hatred, bloodshed and political paralysis” and “a kind of reverse-colonisation”.

He said they face “their own replacement as a people by other peoples, more or less regardless of the incomer’s compatibility of ­psychology, culture, political ideas and ambitions.”

Furore

The campaign at Oxford comes amid a furore at Cambridge university over the appointment of an academic who promotes racist ideas.

Noah Carl’s work is based on discredited fake science on “genetic intelligence” and bolsters racist arguments. He was appointed as a research fellow at Cambridge’s St Edmund’s College.

Some 700 academics from ­universities around the world signed a statement in protest at his ­appointment last year.

Right wing writers and activists—such as the Spectator magazine’s Toby Young—defended Carl on the basis of academic free speech.

But campaigners pointed out that Carl’s writings published in fake academic journals are used by the far right to justify their racism.

Cambridge student Oisin Challen Flynn said Carl’s position at the university risked giving his views the appearance of legitimacy.

“Defending freedom of speech and defending the rights of black and ethnic minority students means not giving people like that an academic platform,” Oisin said.

“Noah Carl has links to the far right. This is like giving him the Cambridge university seal of approval.”

Far right groups have recently tried to organise on university campuses, often over the issue of free speech.

Bigoted

Defending the “right” of students to wear offensive T-shirts or of academics to be “controversial” is a cover for making bigoted ideas acceptable.

That’s why students such as the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) group at Newcastle university campaign to make sure racism stays unacceptable.

Activists demanded action after students were caught wearing T-shirts mocking Auschwitz victims on a night out organised by the Mechanical Engineering Society.

But the Newcastle Chronicle reported that no action had been taken against the students.

Newcastle student union racial equalities officer Chris Wilkinson said, “With the help of groups such as Stand Up To Racism we can spread an awareness that challenges the cultures that bring about this kind of behaviour, and stop this kind of thing before it ever happens.”

And Raj Kumar Murria from Newcastle SUTR said, “We must live the words of ‘Never Again’ by actively opposing racism at every level from campus, to workplaces, the streets and from the top of society in government and the establishment.”

Decolonising education—confronting racism on campus. Conference organised by Student Stand Up To Racism. Saturday 16 February, 10.30am, central London. 

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