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Open letter to University of Copenhagen to address racism in academia

Structural racism — As employees of UCPH we ask the leadership to commit to investigating what diversity looks like at UCPH. That is, to what extent are Black people and other minorities employed and in what positions? What are the numbers of Black students and other minorities?

Witnessing yet again the brutal police killings of Black people has urged us to confirm and show our solidarity. Jacob Blake, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade are but the most recent victims of persistent and strongly established structures of racism and violence leading to the loss of so many Black lives in the USA. It is more than timely to denounce and dismantle the institutional and structural racism deeply rooted in our societies both across the Atlantic and in our local context.

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This open letter is inspired by the one co-authored by Oda-Kange Diallo and Federico G. Settler at Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet, Trondheim. The authors of this letter are grateful to all the colleagues who contributed to the writing and sharing of the letter.

As concerned academics we want to confirm that we stand by the immensely brave people in the anti-racist movement who, day after day, face police brutality and, despite the risks, stand up against the structures that continuously exploit and violate Black people’s lives and bodies. We want to confirm that we stand with you against the silence that has made the Black people’s oppression invisible for too long.

While largely neglected, racism has deep roots in Danish history where it has taken various forms, and remains consistently present. Denmark was the seventh biggest slave trading nation in the world, only one place after the US. From the Gold Coast in Ghana, Trankebar in India and the former Danish West Indies, Denmark too benefited from exploiting colonies and slaves, and thus, Black lives.

Systemic racism in Denmark

This continues in other forms today, as Denmark engages in exploitations of resources and labour on the African continent and beyond. While often overlooked, anti-blackness exists in Denmark.

Denmark was the seventh biggest slave trading nation in the world, only one place after the US.

Black people, people of colour and other minorities are being called out and assaulted in their daily lives and have to work harder to gain the same opportunities as white Danes. Amongst many examples, around 4000 people between 16 and 74 years old experience violence motivated by racism every year (Institut for Menneskerettigheder, 2019)  and in a recent DR article, 20 people bravely explain how they have experienced racism (Sørensen & Olsen, DR, 2020).

In primary schools, teachers expect less of children with brown skin and dark hair (Petersen, Folkeskolen, 2019), and men with different ethnic backgrounds than white Danes have to send out 52 % more job applications to be invited for job interviews (Lund & Pedersen, Politiken, 2016), a number that for women wearing scarfs for religious reasons is 60 % (Marquardt & Carl, Berlingske, 2020).

Lack of data from Danish universities

We acknowledge the role of higher education across the world in maintaining this systemic racism. In many places, Black people are given less space and occupy a very low percentage of full-time staff positions. Their work is often neglected, not included in curricula, and universities lack measures to deal with racism facing Black staff and students.

We also suspect this to be the case at the University of Copenhagen, UCPH.

It is our responsibility to acknowledge white privilege, recognize and call out racism in academia.

For those of us that are white academics, as we benefit from these same structures, it is our responsibility to acknowledge white privilege, recognize and call out racism in academia, and address its root causes. This entails educating ourselves so that we learn to deconstruct these structures in our workplace, research and teaching.

However, at an institutional level, we have no data or information on how racism plays out in Danish universities, making it very difficult to ensure that Black as well as people of colour and other minorities are given equal opportunities and feel safe.

UCPH, count all minorities

Therefore, as employees of UCPH we ask the leadership to commit to investigating, firstly, what diversity looks like at UCPH. That is, to what extent are Black people and other minorities employed and in what positions? What are the numbers of Black students and other minorities?

Secondly, we ask UCPH leadership to commit to investigating how Black staff and students alongside other minorities experience racism in their everyday work and study spaces. This is in line with UCPH’s Strategy 2023 that commits to increase our focus on equality and diversity and provide a diverse and inclusive working and study environment.

We strongly urge UCPH leadership to be proactive and take administrative action to be anti-racist.

Yet, due to the current lack of disaggregated data on diversity, it remains unclear whether UCPH indeed provides equal and diverse environments. Without this information, we cannot ensure that the right changes are made for UCPH to live up to its commitments. Without this information, we cannot distinguish between the words and actions of UCPH leadership.

We strongly urge UCPH leadership to be proactive and take administrative action to be anti-racist. We want UCPH to step into the fight of ending the injustice that Black people continue to face. At the same time we, as individuals, also have a responsibility to contribute to anti-racist spaces, and commit to doing so.

Signatures

Follow the current number of signatures here. This is an update from 04 September:

IFRO

1.     Francois Questiaux (author of statement)
2.     Sofie Mortensen (author of statement)
3.     Ruth Pinto
4.     Péter József Bori
5.     Céline Pascale Claire Moreaux
6.     Marius Samuel Alt
7.     Paula Ugarte Lucas
8.     Penelope Fay Anthias
9.     Mariève Pouliot
10.  Christian Pilegaard Hansen
11.  Nerea Turreira Garcia
12.  Jens Friis Lund
13.  Marijke Hiltje Hielkema
14.  Venticia Hukom
15.  Katrine Kock Andersen
16.  Andrea Marie Goepfrich
17.  Lartey Godwin Lawson
18.  Rebecca Leigh Rutt
19.  Clare Lewis
20.  Mattias Borg Rasmussen
21.  Veronica Gomez Temesio
22.  Francesca Chiu
23.  Maria Cristina Cariola Eriksson

IGN

24.  Pin Pravalprukskul
25.  Yair Asael Alpuche Alvarez
26.  Daniel Ortiz Gonzalo
27.  Sinne Borby
28.  Martin Rudbeck Jepsen
29.  Tzu-Hsin Karen Chen
30.  Rasmus Skov Olesen
31.  Thilde Bech Bruun
32.  Erwan Sachet
33.  Cecilie Friis
34.  Joel Persson

GLOBE

35.  Tais W. Dahl
36.  Daniel Bilyeli Øksnebjerg
37.  Judy Erichsen
38.  Ismael Rodríguez Palomo
39.  Rick Verberne
40.  Anne-Sofie Munk Autzen
41.  Hannah L. Owens
42.  Morten Tønsberg Limborg
43.  Bharath Nair
44.  Susanne Kathrine Munk Arens
45.  Fernando Racimo
46.  Tom Gilbert
47.  Georgy Makhatadze
48.  Peter Carsten Ilsøe
49.  Elisabetta Canteri
50.  Bela Arora
51.  Eske Willerslev
52.  Matthew Collins
53.  Rasmus Nielsen
54.  Julie Koch Sheard
55.  Karina Krarup Sand
56.  Hannes Schroeder
57.  Jacob Gustafsson
58.  Peter Andrew Hosner
59.  Maja Lunn
60.  Fabiana Di Gianvincenzo
61.  Anne Birgitte Gotfredsen
62.  Betina Magnussen
63.  Stanislav Jelavic
64.  Katrine Mohr
65.  Mikkel Winther Pedersen
66.  Núria Hermosilla Albala
67.  Sissel Sjöberg
68.  Christina Lynggaard
69.  Shyam Sunder Gopalakrishnan
70.  Anders Johannes Hansen
71.  Meaghan Mackie
72.  Luisa dos Santos Bay Nielsen
73.  Ioannis Kontopoulos
74.  Muhammad Tayyub
75.  Physilia Chua
76.  Tobias Guldberg Frøslev
77.  Giulia Zampirolo
78.  Tharsika Vimala
79.  Nikitha Susan Saji
80.  Lu Pan
81.  Paloma Fernández Díaz-maroto
82.  Yan-Jun Chen
83.  Frido Welker
84.  Guillermo Rangel-Pineros
85.  Meng Zhao
86.  Maria Ainara Sistiaga Gutierrez
87.  Dorothea Mylopotamitaki
88.  Beatriz Fonseca de Mendonca
89.  Cecilia Nilsson
90.  Graham Gower
91.  Tuuli Kasso
92.  Julian Regalado Perez
93.  Michael Houmark-Nielsen
94.  Morten Allentoft
95.  Naia Morueta-Holme
96.  Line Olsen
97.  Alba Rey De la Iglesia
98.  Andrea A. Cabrera
99.  Gabriele Scorrano
100. Lasse Nyholm Jessen
101. Emily Cavill
102. Garazi Martin Bideguren
103. Charleen Gaunitz
104. Silvia Perretti
105. Bharath Nair
106. Rasmus Nielsen
107. Lars L. Iversen
108. Aske Lohse Sørensen
109. Cátia Alexandra Lúcio Pereira
110. Frederik Valeur Seersholm
111. Jonas Geldmann
112. Nicolaj Krog Larsen
113. Júlia da Luz Bueno
114. Ashot Margaryan
115. Åshild Vågene

ENGEROM

116. Martyn Richard Bone
117. Kiron Ward
118. Tina Jane Lupton
119. Petra Daryai-Hansen
120. Joana-Isabel Duyster Borreda
121. Marian Flanagan
122. Helene Grøn

From the authors: If you wish to sign this letter, please write your full name via this OneDrive Form, alternatively this form. If you want to collaborate with us or share already existing initiatives on addressing racism at KU, please feel free to send us an email.

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