Tyne & Wear

Durham University student shocked by racism

Mirabelle Image copyright Mirabelle Otuoze
Image caption Mirabelle Otuoze moved to Durham in September to study Russian and French

A student has said she is shocked by the level of racism she has faced since starting at Durham University.

Mirabelle Otuoze moved to Durham from London in September to study Russian and French.

The 19-year-old said she had suffered racial slurs and felt "unwelcome as a student of colour", claims she said were shared by other black students.

Durham University said her experiences were "unacceptable" and racism "has no place" at the university.

'Culture shock'

Ms Otuoze wrote an article on the experiences of black students at Durham for The Tab.

An appeal to black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) students for their recollections saw her "overwhelmed" with responses, some of which were "really horrible" with common words including "traumatising" and "soul sucking".

"One person said being at Durham was character building and they knew they could withstand anything having survived Durham," she told BBC Radio Tees.

"When I got there it was the biggest culture shock of my entire life," Ms Otuoze said.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Durham University has more than 18,000 students

"For me what stands out is it just doesn't feel that welcoming if you are a student of colour.

"People just don't really take racism seriously at all. Of course there are people who are good allies and committed to change but the general consensus is people don't think it's that much of a big deal."

Ms Otuoze said the experience "broke" her and she was considering leaving, but the "resurgence" of the Black Lives Matter campaign had shifted people's perspectives.

"[People at Durham] think racism is quite distant from us, she said, adding: "No-one was really understanding the severity so I was like 'Ok, I have to stay here and help fix things for other students to come and feel welcome'."

'Improve representation'

A spokesman for Durham University said: "The experiences being reported to us are unacceptable. We condemn all racism and hate crime in the strongest possible terms. Racism has no place at Durham University.

"We are working to build a safe, respectful and inclusive environment. We acknowledge we have more to do to make this a reality for everyone, but we are working hard to achieve this."

"We are working to understand any institutional or cultural barriers that may stand in the way of BAME staff and students, and to improve the representation, progression and success of BAME staff and students within our University community.

"We have also introduced an online tool through which staff, students and visitors can report unwanted behaviour and seek support."

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