Universities are taking disciplinary action against students they find guilty of racist behaviour, but does this effectively tackle the culture of racism on campus?
The University of Exeter is the most recent institution to suspend students for racist behaviour after a group of law students made discriminatory comments in private messages that were later posted on social media.
A similar situation occurred at the University of Alabama earlier this year when a student was expelled for posting racist comments on her Instagram.
These reports can understandably spark anxiety about studying abroad, as students may be concerned they will be the victims of discrimination.
But, in these cases, the universities are working to make campuses safe and tolerant places for all students.
Georgia Roberts, a black graduate from the University of Exeter proposed that universities are not inherently racist places in an article for The Telegraph.
She argues that the ‘safe space’ culture – the concept that minorities should have places where they are protected, even at the cost of free speech – gives privileged groups something to defy.
“Racism, flourishing in secret corners of the student populace…has become a proxy for attacking safe space culture, which has in turn become a breeding ground for these darker, unsafe spaces,” she wrote.
Limiting hate speech in favour of promoting safe spaces at university can create a false sense of security while racist views continue to fester outside of them, explains Roberts.
Instead of reducing racism by making it a punishable offence, discussion and education should defeat it, she says.
“When it comes to tackling racism, as Dr King and Malcom X, and indeed my father will surely tell you, the only way is to look the beast squarely in the face and tell them constructively why they’re wrong.”