Image: Max Connelly-Webster/ The Boar

Student files race complaint over University Careers seminar

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A complaint has been filed to the University following allegations of racism against a Careers advisor during a seminar at Warwick’s Law School on the first day of term.

Third-year Law student Ikepo Abiru was attending a Careers seminar on Monday October 2 when the advisor leading the session, when discussing the disadvantages of handing in applications close to the deadline, quoted research by the law firm Linklaters that found that on average black candidates handed in their applications 38 days later than their white counterparts.

The University staff member then began to recall a conversation she had previously had with a black woman, who she claimed was not surprised by the results as black people are “generally laid back”. She then asked the two black students in the room whether it was true that black people were generally laid back.

When Ikepo asked if she was expected to speak for all black people, the Careers advisor responded that women of all races experience prejudice but some groups “actively disadvantage themselves,” causing a “double whammie” for black people.

Ikepo told the Boar that although at first she was “confused” and “not sure what was happening.” However, she added that Black and Ethnic Minority students “have to deal with these micro-aggressions on a daily basis.”

[…] actively disadvantage themselves.
University of Warwick Careers advisor

Another student in the Careers seminar added: “It may have been insensitive to use such a fact, and it did in fact feel slightly awkward, but [they] didn’t intend to cause offense.”

A recent graduate has made a further complaint that the same careers advisor monitored her social media and attempted to discourage a future employer from hiring them.

Another Law student, who also wished to remain anonymous, told the Boar: “When I saw Ikepo’s twitter thread, I knew exactly who it was because those silly stats were used in a webinar during summer.”

“I was mad about it because I felt [they were] targeting black students with [their] statements but didn’t speak up because I didn’t think anyone would care, to be honest.”

Larissa Kennedy, President of Warwick Anti-Racism Society (WARSoc), told the Boar that she was keen to “stress the extent of the issue.” She commented: “Ikepo isn’t the first and won’t be the last student to face racism on our campus. WARSoc were at the societies fair on Thursday [October 5] and we had freshers coming up to our stall who, by Day 4 of university, had experienced harrowing incidents of racism.

“Yet, because of a reporting system that isn’t fit for purpose and a complacent attitude towards racism, the scope of this is undocumented and the impact on students of colour remains unaddressed. Black students shouldn’t have to accept racism as a daily reality of their university experience – we deserve better.”

Black students shouldn’t have to accept racism as a daily reality of their university experience – we deserve better.
Larissa Kennedy, WARSoc President

Issues surrounding how such incidents are reported to the University have also been raised by students. The recent graduate has alleged that it was “gently” suggested to them by the Law School not to make a complaint against the same member of staff as it would reflect badly on them and may get back to their employer.

Warwick Students’ Union (SU), who are currently assisting in the complaint along with WARSoc, stated: “The Students’ Union has been in proactive conversation with the University on this issue, and will be pushing for an outcome appropriate to the students’ wishes as a matter of urgency.”

“Our primary concern is for their welfare, and to ensure they are fully supported going forward in whatever manner they choose.”

While speaking to the Boar, Ikepo also commented that as a starting point the research quoted by Linklaters in the seminar was itself problematic, used in this context to victim-blame rather than taking responsibility and taking active steps to face the diversity problem.

A spokesperson from Linklaters told Legal Cheek in response: “We are proud of the work we have done to encourage people of all backgrounds to apply for opportunities at the firm but we recognise there is more to do to help improve diversity at Linklaters and across our industry.”

The often invisible or unconscious biases that people from any minority have to overcome.
Linklaters

“An important part of our efforts is dedicated to researching and understanding how people of different backgrounds, including ethnicity experience our recruitment and training process. Where the research highlights differences, such as the timing of when applications are made that may have had an impact on Linklaters’ ability to recruit students, we are able to make improvements to our processes to help remove those barriers.”

“We will continue to make every effort to ensure we recruit and retain the very best talent, regardless of ethnicity or gender. Understanding the often invisible or unconscious biases that people from any minority have to overcome is a vital component of those efforts.”

On the University’s response to the incident, Warwick’s Director of Press and Policy told the Boar: “A formal complaint has now been received and an investigation of the complaint will now commence.”

“We obviously now cannot comment further on the circumstances being investigated, or anything that could possibly be contextual to that investigation.”

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