Racial harassment will not be tolerated in our medical schools

I think I can confidently say we all agree there is no place for discrimination or harassment of any sort in our medical schools and places of work.

That is why I, along with Matthew Murtagh in our capacity as co-chairs of SMSC, wrote to the deans of all medical schools in Scotland asking them to sign up to a new charter, committing to action to prevent and effectively deal with racial harassment on campus and in work placements.

This is part of a BMA-wide initiative following a member survey that found BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) students were four times more likely than their white counterparts to describe bullying and harassment as ‘often’ rather than ‘sometimes’ a problem.

All four medical student committees are deeply concerned about the impact that racial harassment has on students’ wellbeing and learning. We know you will agree that any racial harassment is unacceptable and a barrier to students reaching their full potential.

We have issued a charter, guidance for implementing it, a background briefing and new guidance for students on what to do if they witness or experience racial harassment to all medical schools and you can also find full details of it on the BMA website.

Early last year the UK medical students committees hosted a roundtable with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), bringing together BAME students and recent graduates to discuss their experiences and issues affecting them, and what they think needs to change. Our medical schools charter has been informed by their voices, as well as our research, BMJ research and the EHRC’s findings from its inquiry into racial harassment in higher education. While this guidance is focussed on racial harassment and undermining, it is likely to be relevant to dealing with other forms of harassment too.

We would now encourage all of our BMA medical student representatives to find a time to meet with their deans and discuss the charter and guidance. All reps are fully briefed on the charter and they will be promoting the guidance for medical students throughout the schools. We would also encourage you to discuss this among your peers, and ensure people feel they can speak up. Your student reps are always available to speak to you if you have any concerns.

Every medical school in the UK has been asked to sign up to the Charter and we will publish the names of those schools who have signed up on our website.

I hope that each and every one of you will find this medical schools charter and guidance a useful and positive tool, and we look forward to working with schools to create a more supportive and inclusive learning environment for BAME students.

Sam Watson is co-chair of the BMA’s Scottish Medical Students Committee

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