Expect respect is a module for all registered students at the University of Kent, focused on digging deep into issues such as racism, white privilege, bias and sexual harassment. The module that was introduced in 2020, at the request of University of Kent students, aimed to make campus more inclusive, safe and supportive for all students.
Although the four-hour module is deemed compulsory, there are no repercussions for not completing the module.
Amongst the lecture slides and quizzes available, Expect Respect will also demonstrate how to report incidents to the university and access any available support, if needed.
However, sociologist, author and lecturer at the University of Kent Professor Frank Furedi, amongst a handful of other lecturers have refused to promote it to their students and have branded the module as ‘thought policing’. Some have even gone as far as to say they will be advising their students not to complete the module.
A wave of disappointment hit the very students who requested more safety and inclusivity on campus. Student led societies such as Ukcrespecttheno, a community action group who work closely with Kent Union to raise awareness and ensure that student safety is a priority on campus, have highlighted the benefits of the module for students all having a joint understanding and respect when it comes to issues such as consent and sexual harassment. “At university level, understanding and unlearning the microaggressions that are ingrained in society, which leads to an unconscious bias that affects women and people of colour the most – should not only be a priority for students and Kent Union, but also our lecturers”: Says Vice President Zaid Mahmood.
Anta Jaw, President of the East African Society, who work closely with the BAME network at the University, has also expressed her disappointment with senior staff and said: “following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests last year, all the BAME societies on campus signed a solidarity statement followed by a list of executive demands”. One of the demands urged a ‘campus wide initiative be undertaken to develop anti-oppression initiatives, trainings and facilitations.’
She says: “It’s both disappointing and disrespectful to know that the small step to institutional change that we’ve been needing in order to feel safe, isn’t supported campus wide and by the very ones we trust with our education”.
Kent Union have also released a statement on their official website following the controversy stating they “fully supports the rollout of the University of Kent’s ‘Expect Respect’ module to students. Nationwide, University campuses have witnessed incidents of harassment and hate crimes against minority students, places where students should feel safe”.
By Lina Ali