Staff and students at one of the UK’s top universities have reportedly received verbal abuse following the Brexit result from the EU referendum.
Deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Exeter, Professor Nick Talbot, told ITV News the incidents were “terrible, reprehensible, and awful.”
However, he said he believes the majority of people in the United Kingdom would “overwhelmingly reject that type of activity.”
The news has come after it was revealed more than a hundred incidents of racial abuse and hate crime had been reported in the two days after Britain voted to leave the European Union.
A spokesman for the Russell Group institution told the Independent the university is aware that a small number of staff and students have been subjected to offensive comments following the recent referendum. He said: “These are isolated incidents that have taken place away from campus, but the university deplores any example of this behaviour.
“As well as offering all necessary support, we also encourage anyone who experiences incidents of this nature to contact the police immediately.
“Exeter prides itself as being a friendly, inclusive, and welcoming community, and all our staff and students play a positive role, not just at the university, but for the city as a whole.
“They also make a vital contribution, through their research, to solving many of society’s most pressing issues. We will continue to ensure everyone at the university feels welcomed, supported, and valued.”
Professor Sir Steve Smith, the university’s vice-chancellor, moved to assure staff and students that, although the future seems “uncertain,” it is important to emphasise there will be no immediate changes to UK universities’ current policies.
He said: “I would please ask everyone to participate fully in any future discussions we will have as there will be considerable time and opportunity to influence future higher education policies, and, therefore, to ensure the UK’s exit from the EU is managed as successfully as possible in this area.”
Staff and students at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester have also been attracting attention this week after their petition for the Government to protect the residency rights of EU-born university staff in the UK quickly gathered more than 1,500 signatures of support in less than a week.
Rick Greenough, of DMU’s Institute for Energy and Sustainable Development, said: “Our colleagues from the EU are far too valuable as employees and friends to risk forcing or encouraging them to leave the UK.”
The University and College Union (UCU) has also issued a call for the Government “to make a firm commitment” that all EU nationals already in the country can stay.
UCU was responding to a refusal from Tory leadership frontrunner, Theresa May, to confirm EU nationals could stay and the suggestion their status could be up for negotiation as part of Britain’s Brexit strategy.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Politicians have been ducking the difficult fall-out of the Brexit vote for too long. It’s simply not acceptable to try and use EU nationals who have been living, working, and paying tax in this country as pawns in any Brexit negotiations.
“It’s time for the Government, and those who wish to lead it, to clearly state that EU nationals can remain in this country.”
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