Discrimination in the classroom. No one really wants to talk about it, but everyone knows it’s there. UBCO, in the aftermath of 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests, decided to hop on the bandwagon of launching anti-racism campaigns, of which we have been made aware of through our email, after they were made aware of these harmful ideologies existing on campus. However, many UBCO students have already had the misfortune of being subject to or bearing witness to discrimination, offensive behaviour or language, and problematic ideas before and after the launching of this initiative. The Phoenix asked students via our Instagram if they were willing to share their experiences. The following is a collection of all the anonymous complaints we received. Please be aware that the following entries may cause discomfort or be triggering.
- One professor said that “a girl must have blubber”. The same professor compared a woman’s virginity to rice.
- One professor swore at a student and threw a pen at them.
- One professor gave a “how-to” guide on getting an eating disorder.
- A professor asked their class of mostly cisgender persons to debate on whether a slur for transgender people is a slur.
- One compared the eating of animals to slavery.
- Another discriminated against a student for wearing assistive technology in the classroom.
- A professor constantly makes gas chamber and refugee jokes.
- Someone was told their religious beliefs were primitive and illogical by their professor, TAs, and peers.
- A professor constantly makes jokes about lynching.
- Another said no one cares about “places like that” when referring to an international student’s home region in a conversation about natural disasters.
- One student’s culture was called immoral because it did not fit Canadian values.
- One professor called part of a student’s country unhygienic as per her standards. It turns out to have been a settlement colony. The conversation had nothing to do with the student’s place of origin. The student went to inquire about an assignment.
- Another student had to take over a lecture because the professor used papers from a white colleague that generalised and diminished an important part of their identity and culture.
- A professor called items from a place in the global south primitive and justified it by saying that it’s a compliment.
- Another professor singled out a global south student before the first class of the semester even started to encourage them to join their class on people from that region.
- The professor used the “n-word” several times in a lecture while trying to justify the more “formal version” of it because it appeared in assigned readings.
- The professor referred to the enslaved as “slaves” and “workers” and used racist imagery without warning and did not critique the fact that it was racist.
This seemingly long list was actually from just a small percentage of people on our campus, but as you can see, the list is long and deeply troubling. The launching of the anti-racist campaigns UBCO initiated in response to Black Lives Matter can, from one perspective can be seen as meaningful, thoughtful, and necessary. On the other hand, to students who are still being subjected to harmful learning environments, it’s just a response to cover their bases when the world briefly turned their attention to these issues––the same issues that many have been complaining about for years before and nothing was done about it.
What good are broad statements of unity and support when students are fighting for their rights in a classroom in which they are spending thousands of dollars to be educated?
Beyond the individual financial cost, there is also the incalculably high cost of perpetuating systemic racism and discrimination under the guise of “education”.
This is not some small issue that occurs in a few courses. The complaints in this article were from the departments of Physics, English, Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Geography, Gender and Women’s Studies, Engineering and Mathematics. There is no one who can say “oh well my department should be fine because we don’t talk about social issues” or claim that any particular faculty might be more “woke” than the other. The fact of the matter is that most of UBCO’s professors are able-bodied, cis, white people from the global north.
Universities in the global north tend to present themselves as liberal and progressive institutions, but the sad reality is that many of the students––such as myself––must be the ones to spearhead diversity and inclusion in the classroom.
It is rare that non-white students, especially from the global south, are included in classroom discourses, and many times if they are, the texts are written by white authors with a Eurocentric perspective. Personally, I’m tired of saying, “but this doesn’t make sense if you’re not white” or, “this theory is actually racist if you dig deeper than the three pages in this textbook”. That we have to keep bringing it up means that the professors themselves are not able to make these connections themselves, which means that if we don’t carry this additional burden, we run the risk of being further colonised through our education.
If I have to choose between interjecting and the class leaving the room a little more racist, then there needs to be a change.
Stop draining my bank account and selling me a future that you are attempting to obstruct me from seeing.