St Cuthbert’s Society JCR has received condemnation after a comment was posted from its official Facebook account that has been described as “Sinophobic” and “outdated and malicious”.
The comment was posted under a Facebook status about the cancellation of St Cuthbert’s Society summer ball. Responding to a question of why it had been cancelled, the JCR account claimed that it was “because somebody in Wuhan ate a bat in late 2019”.
The ball was cancelled by the University, in consultation with local health bodies, four hours before the first buses were due to leave for the venue.
St Cuthbert’s Society JCR has apologised for and taken “full responsibility” for the comment, which was posted by a member of its JCR Executive Committee. An investigation has been launched by the college’s board of trustees into the incident. St. Cuthbert’s Society JCR President, Saskia Wootton-Cane, told Palatinate that the college apologises “especially to Asian students, and recognises that we have lost the faith of many students”.
In an email to all members of the JCR, Cuth’s JCR Trustees clarified that they did not want the apology “to be misunderstood as the only pre-emptive action that may be taken before a thorough investigation is concluded nor as an attempt to mollify or ignore the strength of feeling that such a post has generated. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that the post occurred on a channel representing the JCR, should be disavowed as unrepresentative of the JCR’s values and responsibility acknowledged in the pursuit of transparency.”
Cuth’s Anti-Racism Society released a statement in response to the incident. They said: “Perhaps to some, this comment may have seemed inoffensive or simply humorous, but I think I speak for much of our Asian community when I say that these comments are beyond grating. They add to the overbearing list of jests, jokes, rants, and even physical attacks that many Asian people have faced because of the Covid-19 pandemic. So, yes it is frustrating and downright disgusting that such outdated and malicious rhetoric was adopted and reproduced by a member of our Exec.
“We want to see the Exec come forward and apologise and recognise the weight behind such a snide comment. The Exec is not above the rest of the Cuth’s community, and the endless resources, signposts, and Anti-Racism Workshops I and so many of us worked so hard on have been overlooked as ‘optional’.
“This will not do. Not for any Cuth’s person and especially not from our Exec.”
The Durham People of Colour Association (DPOCA) replied that “An apology isn’t enough” and called on the person responsible to resign from their role on St. Cuthbert’s Society JCR.
“Working with Cuth’s to create anti-racism workshops only for the very lessons being taught to not be heeded by those at the very top sets a very dangerous precedent if allowed to continue without consequence. If the person responsible had any remorse we would’ve seen an apology and a letter of resignation by now.”
Palatinate asked Cuth’s JCR whether the person responsible would resign. They replied that “The comment is currently with our trustee board, who manage our disciplinary procedure in such cases. Our policies are public and can be found on cuths.com. Until the trustees have finished the process Cuth’s JCR is unable to comment on the outcome but the matter is being treated seriously.”
DPOCA emphasised that “Sinophobia cannot be excused and both members of Cuth’s and the Asian community deserve better than to have such behaviour being spouted shamelessly on mainstream platforms. We look forward to hearing the decision the JCR takes.”
Cuth’s JCR told Palatinate: “Cuth’s JCR apologises unreservedly for the comment that was made, especially to Asian students, and recognises that we have lost the faith of many students. It is unacceptable that such a comment was made, especially from an organisation that exists to represent all students and advance their needs and rights.
“We know that building back from this and restoring trust will be a long process that begins now. The comment was escalated immediately to our trustee board and will be with them until the outcome is announced. We encourage anyone affected by the comment to reach out to our welfare team or minority reps, college welfare, or university or SU services.”.
Image: Mark Norton