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Indian origin lecturer praised for anti-racism stand

Wellington, Oct 9 (IANS)- An Indian origin professor from New Zealand's University of Canterbury, who returned a student-voted 'lecturer of the year' award to protest what he calls an "underbelly of hate" on campus, has been praised by the country's race relations commissioner, media reported.

Ekant Veer, an associate professor who has taught marketing at the university since 2010, won the award on a vote from the university students' association UCSA, NZ City reported.

But he returned the award after what he says was UCSA's failure to act over the RoUndie 500 event run by the university's Engineering Society, where participants were encouraged to dress up in costumes that were "the more inappropriate the better".

Veer - of Indian descent and born in the English city of Liverpool - says this resulted in a host of costumes that were "undeniably racist and sexist".

"I have no proof that the UCSA has taken the matter seriously. With no apology and no guarantee of ensuring similar behaviour does not occur again, I believe that racist and sexist behaviour will continue."

New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy has said Veer epitomised the Kiwi fighting spirit.

"It's not easy to be the one who stands up and speaks out but Professor Veer is giving us all a very important lesson: even young people hold obsolete, outdated opinions that belong in 1914 not 2014," Devoy said.

Devoy said Christchurch students should not forget that foreign nations were some of the first to send search and rescue teams into the devastated city in February 2011 and migrant workers and Asian companies were investing millions in the rebuild.

"While we've come a long way as a nation in terms of treating each other with respect -- it's clear some of us still have a long way to go."

Veer said he has been a target of racism since arriving in 2010.

This included one student writing "his ethnicity" when he asked for feedback on what should be changed to improve a course he taught.