The recent murder of George Floyd sparked a massive movement among people around America and the world to end racism. The College Tribune recently reached out to students to discuss potential racism on campus and what the experiences are of Black and minority ethnicity students and staff within University College Dublin.
In the UCD 2018/19 ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ annual report, out of 2864 incoming undergraduates, 83.8% were white; 2114 were Irish, there was 1 Irish traveler, 286 classified as “other white”, 65 African, 5 “other black”, 153 Chinese, 132 “other Asian” and 109 classified themselves as “other”. Only 29% of the students and 30% of the staff, are international.
We spoke to Dennis Egunnike, who is a UCD student studying Sociology and Information Studies. Egunnike is Afro-Irish. He grew up in Ireland and his parents are from Nigeria. Egunnike spoke to us about his thoughts on racism in UCD and Ireland and what he believes needs to change.
“UCD needs to do more to make people of different backgrounds feel more at home and welcome”, said Egunnike. “I would like to see more black lecturers. I have seen one in my whole time in UCD and he teaches Swahili. I refuse to believe he is the only black person who wants to teach in UCD. More efforts should be made to promote racial mixing whether it be on campus activities/events. More awareness should be made about how racial discrimination affects us.”
Egunnike said that UCD doesn’t do enough to promote inclusivity and that the division is evident on the college grounds, “I don’t see many diverse groups of people together socialising in the one place and if I do, it is mainly those sticking to what they’re familiar with the most.”
“UCD overall just needs to make a conscious effort to make students aware that when they graduate and enter whatever field of work they choose, they will be met by people from different walks of life and of a different colour to them so it is important to understand where they come from, what is acceptable and what isn’t around them in order to create a safe, happy and respectable work space.”
In the ‘EDI Action Plan for 2025’ UCD intends to become the leading third level Institution in Ireland to advance equality, diversity, and inclusion. The University aims to enhance the student and employee experience, to attract and support those from all backgrounds, to excel at study and work, and to become the University of choice for all including those from underrepresented groups.
Egunnike expressed that he does not think that UCD is racist, but he has experienced racism on nights out since being a student: “Most recently my friend and I were headed back to our car after a night out to go home and a drunk male came up to us asking for a lift to which we said ‘no’. He followed us to the car persisting we gave him a lift to which we continued to refuse. He then back tracked and said ‘I never wanted a lift from you guys anyway. This was just a test to see how Irish you guys are. But you guys will never ever be Irish. You’ll just always be these black lads from Africa who had no choice but to come here’.”
When asked if he thought Ireland was a racist country, he answered, “Not really…I don’t think Ireland is completely uncomfortable for a person of colour to live in…People for the most part go about their business and there is obviously the ignorant cohort that are physically and verbally abusive. But it’s not enough for Ireland to say, ‘We’re not racist’, Ireland must now work to be actively ‘anti -racist’.”
On the subject of prejudice during job applications, Egunnike said, “My surname is clearly not ‘Irish’ and I wouldn’t compromise my name just for the sake of a job or whatever the application is for when that institution wants to see people like me fail to begin with…Those considering applications can look at my name and because it is not Irish assume any sorts of made up stereotypes against people of my colour. Maybe I can’t speak English very well or maybe I am violent or aggressive so I can never be spoken to. These scenarios and thought processes are very real!”
Egunnike said that as he gets older, he has become confident in his own skin and where he comes from: “I am proud to be black and with every day that goes by, that proudness grows greater.”
Egunnike said that it is important to have conversations about racism from a young age. He says that this way “we can quickly eradicate these historical prejudices and conspiracies”.
He said that it is not until we interfere and throw ourselves into these uncomfortable positions will we see change.
Rachel Healy – Reporter