We are gravely disappointed with the response of the University of Birmingham and the Guild of Students to our petition against student Emmerson Collier.
Dismissing the petition as ‘harassment’, and prioritising the comfort of this student over the safety of the countless on campus to whom his far-right ideology presents a direct threat only underscores everything that we have grown to understand about this University, and its complete impotence in dealing with racism and the concerns of BME people.
In case it wasn’t made abundantly clear, our opposition to Collier is not because he holds a political opinion we merely ‘disagree with’: having far-right ‘activists’ on campus is a direct threat to BME people, and is as corrosive as their presence anywhere in society.
As his experience as Director of Communications of the group National Culturists – a group whose founder, speaking alongside BNP leader Nick Griffin at the Alliance of European National Movements conference in 2012 was open about his intentions to use university funds to advance their cause – would have informed him, it is not difficult to imagine, what this kind of agenda could translate to at our university.
Normalising far-right politics and ideologies, presenting an acceptable outward image and allowing them to flourish in public, providing them leverage in wider society, are how fascism and right wing extremism have always gained its foothold; in society, in electoral politics, and just as easily on our campuses.
It is for this very reason that No Platform policies against fascists were introduced to deny these movements oxygen – but is seems the Guild is now content only to parade policy, whilst encouraging students to ‘take a stand’ against those of us looking to act upon it.
We wonder how long we are expected to remain quiet and content with Collier’s presence.
We are somewhat unsure that the alumni of the National Front, Union Movement, and British Movement that Collier shares company so readily with would be as content with ours.
Neither are we too confident that the ‘true British resistance’ promised by his parent organisation Britain First would be too inclusive of BME people.
In short, our expectations from the University and Guild were minimal, but with their pathetic response they have managed to lower the bar even further.
Our requests to meet with the University to discuss long-standing concerns over discrimination have been summarily ignored, and we find ourselves condemned for exercising what little power we as BME students have at this University to raise our concerns.
We find it strangely ironic how tolerant the University of Birmingham seems to be of intolerance.
But for a University that has been so quick to clampdown on its own members for matters of actual political disagreement, we would appreciate not being lectured about plurality and freedom of speech by them.
So far this only reiterates what we already knew – Black and Brown people lie at the bottom in the University of Birmingham.
And we reaffirm our commitment to our campaign unabated.