Nearly 40 Indigenous academics are calling for a national inquiry into racism at New Zealand universities, saying discrimination against Māori students and teaching staff is ingrained and endemic.
Margaret Mutu is a Māori studies professor at Auckland University and said institutional racism against students and teachers, and in the curriculum and the way it is delivered, has beleaguered the sector for decades.
“There has always been resistance to including anything Māori,” Mutu said.
“Especially those aspects of Māori knowledge and scholarship that may challenge the applicability of Eurocentric knowledge and scholarship to Māori and our world views.”
Thirty-seven Māori academics from eight New Zealand universities have now signed an open-letter to education minister Chris Hipkins calling for a government-led national inquiry into the problem.
The letter alleges the crown has failed “to protect Māori staff and students in universities and, consequently, [has failed] to uphold the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
“We call for a nationwide review of the university tertiary sector for the purpose of committing to, and accelerating with urgency, a tertiary sector that honours te Tiriti o Waitangi. We call for this nation-wide review to commence now with urgency.”
Mutu said students and teachers alike have been left in tears by encounters with racism at tertiary institutions, and racism has taken many forms, including European students criticising Māori staff for teaching Māori content and demanding it be withdrawn, European perspectives of Māori being taught as the Māori content of a course and the absence or minimalisation of Māori content in curricula of courses relevant to Māori.
“Racism against Māori is deeply ingrained in all New Zealand universities,” Mutu said.
“Māori staff having to justify being Māori in a university to their European colleagues. Māori students being told by European students that they do not belong in a university.”
Māori people make up 16.5% of New Zealand’s population, but account for more than 50% of its prison population. They are also over-represented in poor health, welfare and educational outcomes.