Universities are appointing full-time ‘hate crime and racism investigators’ despite receiving only a handful of race complaints.
Campus officers and advisers are being paid more than £30,000 a year to wait for students and staff to report allegations – even though some institutions are recording just a single case of racism each year.
Salford University, which has 20,000 students, is advertising for a £28,756 to £33,309 a year ‘hate crime and racism investigator’ to examine complaints of racism and ‘micro-aggression’. Since 2017, fewer than five student racism cases a year have been reported there.
Manchester University, which has more than 53,000 students and staff, has followed many UK universities by introducing a ‘report and support’ service that encourages victims of racism to contact a ‘harassment support adviser’.
A Freedom of Information request reveals that three racist incidents were reported by staff at Manchester between 2017 and 2020. Of two student complaints in 2020, one involved the university’s official response to the killing of George Floyd in America.
Universities argue hate-crime officers are needed despite the low number of reported racist incidents to encourage victims to come forward after a report in 2019 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission accused universities of ignoring endemic racism.
This was despite only 585 students reporting to it that they had experienced racial harassment – just 0.1 per cent of UK ethnic minority students.
Academics last night predicted anti-racism and diversity advisers might have to reclassify the ‘normal conflicts of campus life’ as hate crimes to justify their jobs.
Frank Furedi, emeritus professor at Kent University, said: ‘Higher education has become a caricature of itself. Instead of dealing with the real problems that confront it, it needs to invent fantasy crimes.’
Others fear a surge in anti-racism and hate-crime recruitment may threaten free speech on campus. Jim McConalogue, senior researcher at the think-tank Civitas, said: ‘Racism must always be dealt with but the employment of specialist officers to monitor highly subjective forms of hate crime and perceived micro-aggressions is leading to a ‘grievance industrial complex’ which is worsening the growing sense of intolerance on campuses.’
A University of Salford spokesman said: ‘While we welcome the fact that cases of racism are low on our campus, we are aware that not all cases are reported. We will do all we can to eradicate it from our institution. One case is too many.’