Oxford University has apologised after it was accused of suggesting that people with autism are “racist”.
The university sparked controversy earlier this week after its equality and diversity unit circulated advice claiming that avoiding eye contact was a sign of racism.
According to the newsletter, not speaking directly to others is a racial “micro-aggression”, also known as “everyday racism” that could lead to mental ill health.
Oxford University was accused of calling people with autism ‘racist’ in a newsletter
Dozens of people have since criticised the institution for indirectly suggesting that people with autism – who often find it difficult to make eye contact – were racist, with some accusing the university of “ableism”.
people with autism, even minor, avoid eye contact, oxford just said people that suffer from autism are racists https://t.co/v0yXzWLIcG
— Bernardo Grando (@BernardoGrando) April 25, 2017
@Telegraph people on autistic spectrum have enough problems/challenges in our society without also being assumed guilty of racism. Shame on Oxford Uni.
— Tony McCormack (@TonyMcCormack8) April 22, 2017
It is great that Oxford thinks autistic kids are born racist. Does that mean all racist are born that way? Slippery slope. https://t.co/3WtpKl8nse
— Paul Thomas (@cestek) April 23, 2017
Oxford University has since apologised via Twitter for failing to take into account “other reasons for difference in eye contact and social interaction, including disability”.
In a further statement, a spokesperson for the university said it was “apologising to everyone” who had raised concerns about autism with regards to its recent advice.
“The newsletter was too brief to deal adequately and sensibly with the issue,” they said.
“This was a mistake. We are stressing to everyone contacting us that Oxford deeply values and works hard to support students and staff with disabilities, including those with autism or social anxiety disorder.”
According to the NHS, autism is a condition that affects “social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour”.
Symptoms can include difficulty making eye contact, being unable to understand sarcasm or metaphors and some emotional and behavioural problems.
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