Nearly 40 Maori academics are calling for a national inquiry into racism at New Zealand universities, saying discrimination against Maori students and teachers is ingrained and endemic.
Margaret Mutu is a Maori 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 Maori,” Mutu said.
“Especially those aspects of Maori knowledge and scholarship that may challenge the applicability of Eurocentric knowledge and scholarship to Maori and our world views,” she added.
Thirty-seven Maori academics from eight universities have now signed an open letter to New Zealand Minister of Education Chris Hipkins calling for a national inquiry into the problem.
The letter alleges the crown has failed “to protect Maori staff and students in universities and, consequently, [has failed] to uphold the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi [the Treaty of 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 honors te Tiriti o Waitangi. We call for this nation-wide review to commence now with urgency,” it said.
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racism has taken many forms, including students criticizing Maori staff for teaching Maori content and demanding it be withdrawn, and the absence or minimalization of Maori content in courses relevant to Maori.
“Racism against Maori is deeply ingrained in all New Zealand universities,” Mutu said. “Maori staff having to justify being Maori in a university to their European colleagues.”
Maori make up 16.5 percent of New Zealand’s population, but account for more than 50 percent of its prisoners. They are also over-represented in poor health, welfare and educational outcomes.
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