The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Students’ Union has released a report which claims the “whiteness” of the school curriculum, coupled with the “unconscious racism” of white academics, is having a negative impact on Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) undergraduates.
The report, titled “Degrees of Racism”, highlights the “need to recruit more BME staff”, questioning the ability of white academics to “relate” to students from a BME background. It also calls for “research on whiteness”, although what form such research would take is left unclear.
While conceding SOAS “by design predominantly studies people of colour in Asia and Africa”, the union questions “who is doing the studying – which writers and thinkers, lecturers and students”.
The answer the report arrives at is “mostly white people”, who are alleged to be overrepresented at the school. The report even goes so far as to allege a “white curriculum”.
A statement released by SOAS indicates that over 50 per cent of the student body are from a BME background, as are 40 per cent of the faculty. Sector averages are 21 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively.
According to the 2011 census, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the population of England and Wales is 86 per cent white, which would appear to indicate that white students and faculty members are in fact significantly underrepresented at SOAS.
Nevertheless, the students’ union maintains that the alleged “whiteness” of courses felt “othering”, “alienating”, and “erasing” for many BME undergraduates.
“Both of my tutors are white men,” complains one black student. “How can I have a rapport and feel comfortable talking to a 60-year-old white man?”
The Sunday Times reported academics such as Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University, as being taken aback by the report’s claims.
“White people can’t teach BME students? Really? I think this claim is unfair and untrue and disrespectful to universities and members of staff. We are human beings, first, second, third, fourth, fifth.”
An analysis of “Black Education” published by Thomas Sowell, arguably America’s greatest living black scholar, found that artificially engineering faculties to have a preponderance of BME academics actually damaged educational outcomes for BME students in the United States.
According to Sowell, promoting under-qualified black academics to senior university positions for the sake of “empowering” black students created a “stultifying and anti-intellectual atmosphere on many black college campuses”.
The result was “low academic standards, frivolous social activities among students, and indifference, incompetence and corruption among the administration and faculty”.