Race case hits college

April 28, 2000

The London Institute has been forced to review its equal opportunities policies and race awareness training following complaints by a black student, it has emerged. The issues will be discussed at a hearing next month.

In April last year, second-year film and video student Brian Moore complained about racially offensive comments made in two separate incidents by two members of staff in the school of media at the institute's London College of Printing.

College head Will Bridge replied: "My immediate reaction to this is that there do indeed seem to have been two sets of incidents and conversations that should not have occurred." He apologised.

After considerable correspondence and a formal investigation, Dr Bridge responded in July 1999: "I conclude that the incidents that you cite in your letter of April 19, and the more general background and atmosphere within the school of media that you refer to, reflect a lack of awareness in dealing with individual difficulties that have had a particular effect on you and some of your fellow students. These oversights are regrettable and have merited immediate action.

"The investigation generated no evidence to disprove your account of unacceptable conversations... I do recognise that incidents have taken place within the school of media that are regrettable. I apologise on behalf of the institute and all those concerned with this."

Dr Bridge outlined action: there had already been equal opportunities training sessions; there was to be a review of the college's equal opportunities policy; and moves were in place to increase the "limited proportion" of black students in the cohort, with a re-examination of interview and outreach techniques.

There were only four black-Caribbean students, including Mr Moore, in a class of about 35 on the BA film and video course, and three of them had made complaints about their treatment. Students had already expressed concern about the low proportion of black students in a March 1999 course meeting.

The college has accepted, in response to a questionnaire by the Commission for Racial Equality, that "there is room for improvement on racism awareness for staff and students and greater guidance could be given".

Mr Moore also experienced problems with assessment. Documents show that as well as apologising for the behaviour of some staff, the college also had to apologise formally to Mr Moore for misinforming him about the marking of his work.

When Mr Moore - whose grades had slipped from an average of 75 per cent in his first year to 57 per cent in his second year - complained about a 2:2 mark awarded for one of his essays, his course leader, Peter Wyeth, told him in April 1999 that it had been second-marked with the same result. This was incorrect. The college said that there had been a misunderstanding and a communication breakdown but there was was no deliberate attempt to mislead Mr Moore.

In a letter to Mr Moore in May 1999, media school dean Sally Feldman wrote:

"I deeply regret that this has happened and am very sorry you were treated in this manner... second-marking in the case of second-year essays is not our policy."

Mr Moore, who was not allowed to progress to the third year of his course, is to appeal against his exclusion at a hearing next month. Although the college maintains he was removed on academic grounds, he is to claim that he has been victimised for his complaints about racism and assessment.

The college spokesman said this week that it took allegations of this kind "extremely seriously", but as an appeal is to be heard, he said that it would not be in Mr Moore's interests to discuss the case in public.

Phil Baty

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