Cambridge to run a reverse mentoring scheme for staff to combat racism

Nearly a quarter of ethnic minority students experienced racial harassment at a UK university.
Nearly a quarter of ethnic minority students experienced racial harassment at a UK university.

Cambridge University is running a “reverse mentoring” scheme for staff members with an aim to boost diversity and drive out racism.

The scheme will see BAME colleagues mentoring white senior academics and management staff in a bid to encourage “institutional change” at the university.

The reverse mentoring scheme is part of the university’s efforts to tackle racism.

Other initiatives include a review of academic courses “to ensure a diverse curriculum is offered.” However, this was still in its early stages, the university said, reported the Telegraph.

Earlier this week, a Cambridge University student, Indiana Seresin, quit her PhD because of “structural racism” at the university.

The 26-year-old said she had witnessed a number of racist incidents during her two years there. She also pointed out at a total “absence of black lecturers or postdoctoral researchers in the English faculty,” which she said left it “intellectually impoverished.”

She described an incident where an English lecturer “repeatedly read aloud the n-word during our class discussions”.

She said one of the “few black students” in the faculty later wrote a polite email to challenge it.

But she added: “Instead of receiving an apology, my friend was patronisingly told that she did not understand the context in which the word was being used.”

Seresin and her friend went on to raise the issue at the Teaching Forum, where students and academics meet to exchange views.

She added: “Many of those present seemed simply unable to comprehend the difference between a black writer reclaiming the n-word and a non-black Cambridge lecturer or student saying it aloud in class.

“We also faced hostility regarding the idea that different rules applied to black and non-black lecturers, even though beyond Cambridge this is a widely accepted principle and for obvious reasons does not constitute a double standard.”

Interestingly,  Cambridge is not the first university to run a “reverse mentoring” scheme for staff. Last year, Birmingham University assigned a junior female colleague from an ethnic minority to mentor and teach professors about unconscious bias.