London (UK), April 2017 - Marshall E-Learning, a London eLearning consultancy, points out that since the UK’s EU referendum vote in 2016, the number of hate crimes has risen dramatically, including attacks based on disability, racial, religious, and homophobic motives. The number of victims of religious and racist hate crime alone has risen almost twenty per cent in the last year, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is calling on British police to prepare for a new wave of hate crime following the formal triggering of "Article 50".
It’s important to keep in mind that this rise in hate crimes isn’t limited or linked to one specific group or one religion. One deeply worrying trend is the rise of "far-right" attitudes and so-called "white nationalism". In fact, Twitter users who self-identify as white nationalists and neo-Nazis have grown 600% since 2012 according to a recent study.
Not just confined to a Twitter feed, these attitudes can also be found on British streets as well. Take for example, the recent racist attack by a Polish-born photography student on a bouncer at a club in West London.
Karolina Szumko, an eighteen-year-old student at Kingston University, had drunk half a bottle of vodka and was fighting with a friend outside Notting Hill Arts Club when she shouted racist expletives at the bouncer who was trying to break them up and ensure their safety. When the police arrived, Szumko slapped one officer and kicked the other. While in custody, she spat in the face of one officer and threw water over another. Though she was spared jail time, it was later found out that she had attended a nationalist march alongside "neo-Nazis" a month earlier.
In regard to the incident, a speaker from the consultancy said, “Reading the newspapers, we at Marshall E-Learning were struck by the case of a student at Kingston University. She had been arrested for assault and racist language. The racism naturally made us think of universities’ duty to promote equality amongst their students, in particular with students who perhaps had not grown up in our multicultural society.
"The other thought was that this student had been viewing extremist nationalist and racist material online – and universities have a duty of care under the Prevent duty to ensure students do not engage with extremist material of any kind."
With this rise in hate crimes and racially motivated attacks, all British universities should play their part in helping to prevent these types of attacks from happening. Universities have a statutory duty to take due regard in promoting good relations across protected characteristics under the Public Sector Equality Duty.
The UK has a diverse society in which everyone comes into contact with people from different backgrounds. However, with such a unique blend of nationalities and backgrounds, things can sometimes go awry, particularly if someone has a background that has insulated them from having come into contact with racially and religiously diverse groups of people.
Diversity training for students can help support the promotion of good relations across different groups by raising awareness of what actually constitutes discrimination and harassment. It can also help young people understand the need for reasonable behaviour through awareness of how their actions can impact on others and have the potential to affect their own lives.
Aside from a base of diversity training, it is also important for student bodies to play their part in preventing extremism and radicalisation.
The "Prevent Duty", which came into law in 2015, places education on the frontline of supporting and safeguarding individuals from the influences of extremism and radicalisation. It requires that further-education institutions in the UK have a legal duty to “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
Whilst training in extremism and radicalisation often has prevention of terrorism at its centre, it also provides important lessons in how to recognise and combat the formation of extremist views and actions arising from those views. Radicalisation doesn’t just come in the form of "Islamic" extremism, but any views that deeply marginalise a particular group, including "white nationalism" and far-right attitudes.
Colleges, college societies and student groups have a clear and unambiguous role to play in helping to safeguard vulnerable young people from radicalisation and recruitment by any type of extremist organisations.
To help academic institutions meet their legal requirements around the Prevent Duty, Marshall E-Learning has launched the UK’s first anti-radicalisation course for colleges and universities.