As Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia (UEA), I was privileged to be on the Changing the Culture taskforce. My involvement came about as a direct result of conversations I had with UEA Students' Union officers about their concerns centred on sexual harassment and hate crime.
That 2016 report, in combination with the work individual universities and students' unions have been undertaking, has taken the sector forward, but there is much more to be done. The focus on tackling sexual harassment has been positive and effective, but hate crime remains a pressing concern in 2018.
I know from speaking to black students at UEA that there are challenges we need to respond to. Up and down the country, university campuses don't necessarily feel as inclusive as we like to think they are, and incidents of hate crime have been on the rise.
So, how do we begin to tackle that? We need to start by looking at the evidence-base on hate crime and tackling hate crime. To that end, UUK has conducted a review which includes the current knowledge, as well as theoretical and methodological contributions of research on hate crime.
The review also includes an analysis of the national and global issues, strategies, and outcomes of anti-hate crime work. This review will form the basis for a roundtable discussion I will be chairing with sector practitioners, academics, and leadership during hate-crime awareness week in October.
This roundtable is an opportunity to connect voices from across the sector who share a common goal. An overview of the findings, coupled with the outcomes of the discussion, will help shape UUK's continued leadership in this area.
Calls from students, along with the general, national increase in hate crime figures, have brought this issue to the forefront. With good reason, as new Home Office data indicates an increase in hate crimes across England and Wales. The figures show that the total number of hate incidents reached a record 94,098, from April 2017 to March 2018, a rise of 17% from the previous year. More than three-quarters of those – a total of 71,251 – were classified as 'race hate'.
There are several theories on why we may expect to see correlation between political narratives around immigration, and increases in reported hate crimes. Although there are working papers specific to the Brexit context, the majority of published research on this theme have come from older literature on hate crime.
Sensationalism, from media coverage and political elites, can desensitize populations to hateful speech.
While there is an abundance of work to explain spikes in data, the research tells mostly a story we know too well: leadership matters. As a University Vice-Chancellor, it is important that I, and others, provide clear and visible leadership on these issues, both on our university campuses, and in our university cities and regions.
The UUK roundtable discussion on hate crime is a welcome step forward. I cannot claim to have the answers, or fully understand the lived experiences of students who have experienced hate crime, but I can listen and learn from those who have encountered these problems.
There is no place in our universities for discrimination against black people, Asian people, Muslim people, Jewish people, or any other characteristic that marks a person or persons out for discrimination or hate. UUK is committed to tackling these pernicious problems.