Students Are Calling For Kent’s SU Pres To Resign After “Disrespectful” Black History Month Campaign
As part of Black History Month this October, the University of Kent chose six public figures to represent diversity – publishing profiles on their website and Facebook page detailing the lives of each.
However, students at the University were surprised to find that Zayn Malik and Sadiq Khan were named as black icons.
Alongside Trevor Macdonald, Shirley Bassey, Arthur Wharton and Dame Kelly Holmes.
Many pointed out that neither Malik or Khan are black; both are from British Pakistani families.
Kent uni is a joke omggggggg. This uni thinks an English Pakistani boy from a band is a prominent figure in the black community. BYE pic.twitter.com/p9gjzh6Bp5
— Ché Scott-Heron (@cscottheron) October 25, 2016
Students took to the Union’s Facebook page to express how appalled they were by the move.
One wrote, “It’s black History Month not black and other ethnic minorities month. You can’t just lump all ethnic minorities together because you feel like it.
“If you want to celebrate other minorities, that’s fine. No one has a problem with that. But don’t do it as part of Black History Month.”
Another added, “I can’t lie, this has really offended me. Kent union is amazing and outstanding in so many areas, but this time u guys really got it wrong.”
Meanwhile, the University’s African Caribbean Society tweeted that they were not involved in the SU’s “disrespectful” decision.
Guys we have seen all of your tweets. We want you to know that the ACS were NOT involved in Kents 'diluted version' of BLACK history month.
— UKC ACS (@UKCACS) October 25, 2016
As a society that is part of @KentUnion, we are deeply offended by the posts and find them disrespectful and poorly thought through.
— UKC ACS (@UKCACS) October 25, 2016
And Black History Month also tweeted criticising the Union.
Deeply disappointed at @KentUnion's ill thought and misdirected Black History Month celebrations.
— Black History Month (@BhmUK) October 25, 2016
Following the backlash, the Union’s President, Rory Murray, published a statement on the Union’s Facebook page Monday evening.
It read, “Having become aware of the discussions online today regarding an image released for Kent Union’s Black History Month campaign I wanted to respond personally. I was out of the country visiting our students on the Paris campus to discuss important issues with them and so have responded as soon as was practical.
“First of all, I want to apologise on behalf of Kent Union to any individuals who were upset, uncomfortable or offended by the image shared. There was no intent for this to happen and I am very sorry to anybody who felt this way.”
Murray added, “I also feel it is important to explain the context behind how this happened. As a students’ union we are led by our members; over 2,000 volunteers who give up their time to run campaigns and events. This is through a wide range of activity be it sports clubs, societies, campaign groups, elected officers and so forth. The Black History Month calendar of events was led and run by these students and supported by the organisation. The activity for the month was decided by open meetings attended by black and minority ethnic students.
“At Kent Union we always strive to do the very best and include our members to the full extent on our activities. Whilst we made every effort to include black & minority ethnic students on the planning for the month, clearly, we haven’t got it right on this occasion. For that, I again apologise and will ensure we do better.”
However, Kent students were unimpressed by Murray’s “non apology”.
One commented, “Are you serious? You apologize if we felt offended?” Another, “The level of ignorance that Kent Union have reached is absolutely astounding.”
Some called for the SU Pres to resign his position following the mistake, “at this point Kent Union has become a national embarrassment. From what I’m seeing, this post doesn’t really cover the extent of the offense you’ve caused and comes across as a bit patronising.
Kent Union issued a second apology on their Facebook page Tuesday morning.
They wrote, “As you are aware, last night we removed the posts about Zayn Malik and Sadiq Khan. We would like to unreservedly apologise for any offence or upset that was caused by this post. In the planning stages of Black History Month, we worked with students to develop a campaign that celebrated a range of ethnic cultures. However we can see that many of our students disagree with the direction the campaign took. We made a mistake.
“The officers will be meeting with the African-Caribbean Society this morning to apologise and discuss where we go from here. We really value the input of all of our students in our liberation campaigns and welcome the opportunity to talk to any of you further.”