Black Lives Matter: Queen’s University criticised by MP for sending students for ‘unconscious bias training’

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) has been accused by an MP of “pandering” to racial activists as it emerges that students are being sent for “unconscious bias training”.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 7:00 am
Anti-racism protestors at Belfast City Hall on June 3

Sammy Wilson made the comments to the News Letter in response to a letter which the university circulated to its medical students in the wake of the Black Lives Matter phenomenon.

The letter was sent on June 17 and has only now come to light after the News Letter asked questions about QUB’s handling of racism allegations.

The whole story began when, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, a group called the QUB African-Caribbean Society sent a four-page missive to the university accusing it of being “complicit” in a “system that is rooted in colonial knowledge production”.

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The group complained of “microaggressions” against black students, who it said are “one of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups” on campus.

In response the university pledged to “publish progression data for black and minority ethnic students and staff, including attainment, and to ensure appropriate diversity in the curriculum”.

It also sent medical students a letter stating there will be “training on unconscious bias and embedded reflection on equality and diversity issues through the portfolio”.

The letter also went on to add that medical students will undertake “a new workshop on diversity and cultural competence” from September, and that part of their course will “emphasise issues such as ethnicity and discrimination as determinants of health, and give voice to important historical injustice in medical practice”.

The letter doesn’t make clear whether the “unconscious bias training” has already begun, and the press office would not answer any questions about it such as what it involves or who is teaching it.

Mr Wilson is a former school teacher who has held the brief of DUP education spokesman intermittently for over a decade.

He said complaints about microaggressions and colonialism were “crap”.

When it comes to the university’s letter he told the News Letter: “They couldn’t translate that into English, could they?

“It’s just typical of the politically-correct speak which is now being adopted by institutions across the UK.

“We’ve got in this country strict equality laws which should be sufficient to deal with any discrimination there is against particular groups, and there’s no need for universities to pander to all of this.

“There’s nothing that creates an atmosphere which is detrimental to minority groups more than this continual carping... I know people who have migrated here, or come here to study, had challenges to face. But I also know how most of them found Northern Ireland.”

He used to have a lodger living in his house in the loyalist Woodstock area in east Belfast: a female Chinese student, who lived with him for three years.

“I know how hard she worked to just be part of Northern Ireland society, and I know that she still looks fondly back on her experiences here,” said Mr Wilson. “She did very well out of it”.

After that an Arab student lodger moved in. He had similarly positive experiences, Mr Wilson said.

“There are people who will always try to find sources of grievance and concern.

“Sometimes I just think there’s a fear now.

“People are almost afraid to say: Look - wise up. Come, enjoy your time here, use the structures we have if you feel you’ve been discriminated against.

“But we’re not going to add to your narrative that somehow or other this is a racist society. It’s not.”

He also noted that there have been long-standing complaints from unionist/Protestant students at Queen’s about a republican-dominated atmosphere on campus.

If university leaders “would put as much effort into dealing with the alienation of Protestant students ... then I think maybe they’d be tackling a problem that’s real, rather than pandering to all this left-wing agitation,” Mr Wilson said.

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