Law lecturers say job refusal racist

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The Independent Online
UNIVERSITY law departments have been accused by the Society of Black Lawyers of perpetuating racial inequality in the legal profession and of failing to provide adequate role models for black law students.

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has taken up complaints by two Asian university law lecturers, who both say they were passed over for jobs because of discrimination.

The commission plans to investigate complaints by Asif Hasan Qureshi, course director of the international law programme at Manchester University, against King's College, London. In 1990, after investigating a complaint from Dr Qureshi, the commission found that the college had rejected his job application while short- listing several less well-qualified candidates. It suggested that King's should review its selection procedures and equal- opportunities policy, which the college says it has since done.

Late last year, Dr Qureshi applied again for a lectureship in international law at King's. Only one applicant, a colleague of his at Manchester, was short- listed for the post, and he is again claiming discrimination.

Amir Majid, a senior lecturer at London Guildhall University, received the commission's backing for his second industrial tribunal case in three years against his employer, after being turned down five times for a principal lecturer's post. He says that in 1991, when his first case was settled without a full hearing, he received a verbal promise of promotion within five months. The university denies this, but accepts he is a good candidate for such a post.

Dr Majid also claims that after his earlier case he was victimised by his department. He says the course of which he was chairman was scrapped and he was forced to teach more, to mark more, and to work against harsh publication requirements. His industrial tribunal hearing began last month but was adjourned until March.

The chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, Makbool Javaid, who is also principal legal officer of the CRE, said the numbers of black lawyers had increased in recent years but there had been little change in university departments of law. The 'old' universities' law departments had few ethnic-minority lecturers, and the Society of Black Lawyers organised regular meetings for black law students to provide advice and positive role models.

Mr Javaid said: 'We would not have to do that if there were sufficient numbers of ethnic- minority lecturers. From our own experience, we know that they can become disillusioned and lose confidence when all their lecturers are white.'

Dr Qureshi said his complaint against King's highlighted the difficulties faced by many ethnic-minority law lecturers. 'In the whole university sector, the number of black law academics is small in relation to the pool of highly qualified individuals in the market. Those who are in the academic sector face considerable difficulties in getting promotion and in finding opportunities to excel.'

Both King's College and London Guildhall University reject the allegations made against them. King's does not accept the CRE's 1990 findings.

A King's spokeswoman said that Dr Qureshi could not have been discriminated against because of his surname, because someone of the same name was interviewed in 1990. The CRE decided not to proceed to an industrial tribunal in that case because there was not enough evidence, she said.

Some 10 per cent of academic staff and 40 per cent of students in the department were from ethnic minorities. 'The school of law at King's has very clear equal-opportunities policies which it constantly monitors.'

Kofi Dwinfour, director of marketing and public relations at London Guildhall, said: 'We feel very strongly about this. We did review our procedures as a result of the action that Dr Majid brought in 1991, but even after that he did not gain the principal lecturer's position that he was seeking. We feel that we have tried to be entirely fair to him.'

Gareth Miller, president of the Society of Public Teachers in Law, said that in his experience universities were only concerned with finding the best- qualified staff. 'My reaction, having been on many selection committees, would be that race or colour is not a matter that you think about.'

Ingrid Persaud, a lecturer in law at King's College, who is of West Indian origin, said that in her three and a half years there she had not suffered any discrimination. 'I am obviously very concerned about racism in society, and I don't think this society has anything to be proud of, but I don't think that this is a place where there is a problem,' she said. 'Obviously I hope that Mr Qureshi's case will be investigated and dealt with properly.'

(Photograph omitted)