‘Unlivable’ UCL Hall Reveals yet more Structural Racism and Management Hypocrisy

‘Unlivable’ UCL Hall Reveals yet more Structural Racism and Management Hypocrisy

Last week UCL was awarded the Race Equality Charter Mark, a sign that management has committed to the ‘need to take responsibility for advancing race equality’ – news uncritically echoed on the UCLU website. Yet, reports presented by the student union on Hawkridge House provide evidence that this pledge was broken long ago.

Over forty official complaints by residents at Hawkridge – which predominantly houses overseas students – sent to UCL in May state that, “Students reported that workers were making racist comments [about residents],” during construction works there earlier this year.

Despite the sheer volume of complaints, UCL management have made no comment on the matter. Evidently, no serious investigation has taken place. Had management been truly committed to protecting students from alleged racial abuse, Hawkridge residents and contractors would have been questioned and other visible measures would have been taken. In this case, students who dared report racist comments were simply ignored by management.

Photo: David Dahlborn, ‘Hall from Hell’ Hawkridge House exterior

Not only has UCL instantly broken its pledge to the Race Equality Charter Mark; the Equality Act 2010 requires public institutions to have “due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation.” Furthermore, UCL’s own Equal Opportunities Policy Statement makes clear that “UCL is committed to provide a learning, working and social environment […] which is free from discrimination, prejudice, intimidation and all forms of harassment.”

Although it could be considered shameful that these polices’ lack explicit mention of countering or dealing with specifically racist abuse or oppression, failing to even speak out when scores of residents in one hall report racist comments is utterly disgraceful. However inadequate UCL’s Equal Opportunities Policy, the bosses have apparently shown complete disinterest in enforcing it.

Had this been addressed in the official response to the Hawkridge complaints, or if attempts had been made to discover the extent of this discrimination, then there could perhaps be some reason to believe that management is committed to its own policies. However, no such steps have been taken.

By turning a blind eye to these reports, management has strengthened the longevity of structural racism in society. When discrimination passes unremarked it sends implicit signals to the abuser that such acts and language are tolerated, despite rhetorical blusters to the contrary by institutions and policy-makers.

Here, UCL is revealed to be a Janus-faced hypocrite. Whereas on the one hand UCL’s Equalities and Diversity Strategy states that:

common manifestations of institutional discrimination are […] failing to incorporate equality and diversity issues within day-to-day practice, procedures and mainstream activity [and] a weak commitment in practice, to implementing the policies that institutions subscribe to on paper

On the other hand, when reports of racist abuse are made, not even the most basic actions are taken. Harrowing as this hypocrisy indeed is, the greatest tragedy of this situation is that students who were subjected to, and who dared report racist discrimination have been forced to carry on without justice and with their dignity and self-esteem damaged by both their abuser and their university.

This case demonstrates that flowery promises made by management are not to be trusted. The wealthy managers who run our university have vested interests in presenting UCL as an attractive brand, a ‘global university’, but little interest in actually protecting our rights or destroying racism. These incidents have come to light thanks to the brave reports by victims who are far too often silenced and ignored in an undemocratic education system run for profit, not for people.

The new union Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer unfortunately declined to comment on this case. Nevertheless, the picture developing at Hawkridge continues to indicate that students and UCLU more than ever need to stand up for our rights to be free from discrimination and racism, because management just don’t seem to be on it.

Featured image: Chris Bethell, protest against institutional racism demanding that one of UCL’s few black lecturers be reinstated


  1. Avatar
    Former Campebell House resident and Ethnic minority at UCL.
    September 3, 2015 / 4:33 pm

    You are incredibly bias. Never have you had something positive to say about UCL. I appreciate that you are enthusiastic and determined, but must you take every oppurtunity to tarnish UCL’s name? You have no serious evidence for your alligations. Also, about the rent strike, when I applied for UCL accomm in 2014, it had a warning about the construction noise so what is the issue? I think you need think about your motivations because it seems to be like you only care about the bad things UCL does and then you blow it completely out of proportion. UCL has improved very much on the racial front, but things still happen. That’s life. It’s fair to write about what has happened, but it is unfair to make it seems like UCL doesn’t care.

    I used to really support you, but now I’m starting to get tired of your constant need to make things more contreversial that it really is. Why not write an article about something positive relating to accommodation? I didn’t see you writing how Campbell House Residents were all given keys (if they asked) to stay in another hall free of charge for the remainder of the accademic year due to all the noise. We have the cheapest accommodation, but were given some of the most expensive free of charge.

    Please stop.

    • Avatar
      Jack Oliver Aaron
      September 4, 2015 / 1:13 pm

      David Dahlborn began as an idealistic young man with left-wing sentiments. Since his election to UCLU, he has been radicalised into hating his alma mater and finding anything he can to defame it. This is sad, self-destructive and does no good for anyone.

      Of course, UCL does not need help in sullying its reputation in recent months, given its hypocritical treatment of Tim Hunt. David won’t criticise this travesty because it is something Social Justice Warriors encourage.

  2. Avatar
    September 9, 2015 / 6:30 am

    This post is biased through and through. It is based on a couple of accounts from some unknown residents, and is obviously emotionally charged. The writer seems all out to tarnish UCL’s reputation and Pi Media’s credibility. As seen in the comment above, UCL has taken steps to improve the lives of ethnic minorities and properly compensated Campbell House Residents. Such steps should be verified and stated in the report to give a more holistic and accurate representation.

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