University College Dublin has removed all references to their ‘Embrace Race’ anti-racism campaign from their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) website and a number of ‘Embrace Race’ posters from noticeboards on campus after staff raised concerns that the wording of the slogan included concepts and language of ‘Race’ similar to that of the Third Reich.

A number of academic staff wrote letters to UCD management voicing the concern with the wording of the college’s anti-racism campaign, with one academic saying that use of “the unqualified language and notion of race [was found to be] highly problematic if not to say offensive.” 

One such letter from a UCD Professor in the School of Sociology, Andreas Hess said “Race is not a scientific or widely accepted social scientific term or concept, even in its supposedly social constructivist meaning. […] the uncritical utterance of the word ‘Rasse’ today clearly evokes not only memories of National Socialism’s ideology and crimes but also promotes unreflectively the rhetoric of Lingua Tertii Imperii (language of the Third Reich).”

“The uncritical utterance of the word ‘Rasse’ today clearly evokes not only memories of National Socialism’s ideology

Professor Hess continued saying: “Coming from a country that in the past tried to establish and impose its ‘race’ definitions to detrimental and disastrous effect in Europe and beyond, I am appalled by UCD’s unqualified use of the word race. Even worse now, we are asked to ’embrace race’. I tried my entire life to get away from such notions and I find it appalling that such words and slogans are now part of a UCD campaign and promoted at a university of which I happen to be a faculty member.”

The ‘Embrace Race’ slogan was chosen alongside the current ‘Racism Stops With Me’ slogan after submissions from both staff and students as part of the #UCDAgainstRacism campaign to take place in the college during the 2021/22 academic year. The slogan has now been removed from UCD’s EDI website and a number of noticeboards in UCD since the letter was received by management.

'Embrace Race' Poster
The ‘Embrace Race’ poster before removal from campus. Photo credit – Hugh Dooley. College Tribune.

UCD’s Response on ‘Embrace Race’ Slogan

Asked whether UCD continued to stand by the ‘Embrace Race’ campaign, Professor Colin Scott, UCD VP for Equality Diversity & Inclusion said: “The campaign initially included two slogans: ‘Racism Stops with Me’ and ‘Embrace Race’. However, as soon as I was contacted by two faculty who pointed out the potential for negative interpretation of the latter slogan, we immediately removed it from the campaign.”

Professor Scott went on to say that UCD, “accept that raising consciousness of racism as part of wider anti-racist activities is challenging and, with an open dialogue with our whole university community, we can all do better.”

Professor Hess responded saying: “As one of the people who drew attention to the dangers of using the slogan ‘Embrace Race’, I welcome Professor Colin Scott’s statement. Having said that, the fact that this slogan was considered seriously and wasn’t pulled earlier tells me that a kind of nudge culture and rule by committee seem to prevail at UCD’s top brass. The incident is yet another example of ‘doing for’ instead of ‘doing with’ at this university and throws up serious questions as to how this place is being run.”

Hugh Dooley – News Editor
Including reporting from Conor Paterson – CoEditor