Gordon Rayner, London Telegraph, September 3, 2008
Police are investigating race-hate claims after a delegate at a National Union of Students seminar allegedly made comments about black students “increasing gun and knife crime” on campuses.
Students were also allegedly confronted with a Bring Back Slavery sign during the training event at York University, leading to a formal complaint by the NUS Black Students group.
One witness has claimed the incidents were merely a prank designed to “wind up” the politically correct audience, but police have a duty to investigate any allegation made by someone who feels they have been the victim of racism.
The trouble began during a role-playing session designed to give crisis management training to student union officers from universities across the north of England.
During the seminar, one officer is said to have warned participants against increasing black representation in a fictional university, as “the presence of such students would increase gun and knife crime and so require more security”.
Tom Scott, president of York University student union, said: “There is a lot of political correctness in the union.
“There were people on the course with strong political views. The student involved was frankly poking people to see if he could get a response which worked—but I don’t think there was any malice intended.”
He described the slavery poster incident as “more of the same”. It was produced during a debate in which a senior NUS official took on the role of vice chancellor of a fictional university being subjected to heckling and “various comedy protests” from the floor.
But many delegates were clearly upset by both incidents, leading to the complaint to police.
Mr Scott added: “It was nothing to do with York University or any officers in our team other than the course was held on the campus. It was about a fictional university, not York, and it was an officer from London who was trying to get a rise out of more sensitive members of the group.”
The training session was a four-day event for more than 100 student union officers from the North of England to train them in activities like running campaigns on campus.
Wes Streeting, National NUS President, said a full investigation was under way, adding: “I have received a number of communications relating to allegations both about the behaviour of delegates on the programme, and the actions of senior members of the National Executive Committee in handling problems.
“It goes without saying that NUS takes the issue of equal opportunities very seriously and I am thus determined that the allegations are handled properly.”
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “North Yorkshire Police can confirm that we are investigating a racially motivated incident during a student event at York University between 12-15 August.
“We were notified of the incident on August 22. Inquiries are currently ongoing.”
No-one from the Black Students group was available for comment.