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Concerns as Scottish Universities ‘Adopting Extreme Anti-Racism’

Universities in Scotland may be “blindly adopting an extreme form of anti-racism,” a lecturer said, as it emerged an anti-racism programme universities signed up to includes material saying the defence of academic freedom is a sign of so-called white indifference.

Stuart Waiton, senior lecturer at Abertay University, who recently founded The Scottish Union for Education, said the material “essentially labelled academic freedom as racist,” and warned it would lead to academics who believe in academic freedom being “labelled as racist by the very institutions who are meant to promote this.”

Sociology professor Gurnam Singh, who developed the material, said academic freedom is “essential,” but “cannot be a license for peddling racist myths.”

In a template provided on the Scottish Funding Council’s website, titled “Call it racism,” universities are asked to state that racism is embedded in the institutions.

“As part of Scotland’s Further and Higher Education sector, we, (insert organisational name here) as students, staff and partners, recognise and acknowledge that racism is embedded in our policies, processes and practices despite some efforts to the contrary,” the template reads.

White Supremacy To White Allyship

It also includes a model developed by Singh, which was used to create a “Tackling Racism Diagnostic Tool.”

The model, a metric for institutions to grade themselves, groups race-related mindset into four categories named white allyship, white awareness, white indifference, and white supremacy.

Listed as top of the signs of White Indifference, is “Passionate defender of western universalism, academic freedom, and the right to offend.”

The diagnostic tool published on the same webpage didn’t include the defence of academic freedom in its list of symptoms.

The materials were developed by higher education charity Advance HE for the Scottish Funding Council’s “Tackling Racism on Campus” programme.

Other materials in the package contain a list of remarks considered “microaggression,” including “I just don’t see colour,” “I’m not racist but … ” or “I didn’t see you there.”

According to a slide seen and published by the Scottish Daily Express, the programme had the backing of eight universities and colleges and the Universities Scotland group, which represents 19 higher education institutions. The slide also included logos of over 30 institutions.

The University of the West of Scotland published the statement (pdf) on its website with its name and logo inserted. A document (pdf) published by the Heriot-Watt University (HWU) said its senior leadership were participating in “Scotland-wide pilot Race Equality ‘White Allyship’ training, and was working on “embedding white allyship credentials across HWU.”

The material was also published on the website of Advanced HE, which members include at least 154 UK universities. Some 100 British universities have signed up to the charity’s Race Equality Charter.

The University of Bath has on its website an image version of the white supremacy to white allyship model.

Waiton: Model ‘Essentially Labelled  Academic Freedom as Racist’

In an email to The Epoch Times, Waiton said universities are meant to celebrate and promote academic freedom, which has remained “an ideal.”

“Now, however, they are in the process of blindly adopting an extreme form of anti-racism that defines academic freedom as part and parcel of a problem of ‘White Indifference,’ a category that, according to this schema, is just one step away from being part of the problem of ‘white supremacy,’” he said.

“In other words, universities who follow this dogma, will have essentially labelled academic freedom as racist. Academics who believe in academic freedom will consequently be labelled as racist by the very institutions who are meant to promote this.”

Singh, defended the material, saying the category of white indifference “reflects a neutral stance towards racism.”

In an email to The Epoch Times, Singh said “academic freedom is essential to allow the exploration and questioning of ideas, without which academia cannot function.”

“However, it cannot be a license for peddling racist myths, not least because ‘race’ is a complete fiction,” he added.

In a separate email, he stated that the inclusion of “western universalism” was challenging “the assumption that universal values, such as freedom of expression or belief, are inherently Western” and that the inclusion of the “right to offend” targets “the impact of racist offence.”

The SFD, a Scottish public body that holds colleges, universities, and other funded bodies to account for their delivery of required outcomes, said in a statement: “Following the publication of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission inquiry into racism on campus in 2019, Advance HE developed a set of resources to support colleges and universities to recognise and address the issues raised. The project was funded by the Scottish Funding Council, and saw the sector work collaboratively to develop resources that included references to existing academic work, including that from which Waiton quotes.

“The declaration of anti-racism which institutions subsequently chose to make is a simple rejection of racism in all its forms.”

Advanced HE and the Office for Students didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ requests for comment at the time of publishing.

The University of the West of Scotland, Heriot-Watt University and the University of Bath also did not respond to requests for comment.

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