Students protest outside SU office over postponed cultural event

“Ethnic minorities are not for your ‘commercial strategy’” sign | Jory Mundy

Around 40 students protested outside the Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union office this afternoon after it postponed a cultural event for ethnic minority communities.

A collaboration between the African Caribbean (ACS) and Asian societies planned since December 2021, Flying Flags was scheduled for 19 March at 7pm in the Upper Stannary as a ball “to bridge the gaps and break down the divisions that are evident on our campus and make everyone proud to be a part of this university”.

The SU postponed the event on 18 March. The union told the Anchor that it was “disappointed” to make this decision, adding: “We see the event as a positive celebration of cultures on our campuses and want to create space for these communities to come together, now and in the future.”

Despite “extensive advertising”, the SU said that it postponed after seven tickets were sold, which did not cover the total cost. It added that it expressed concerns over a potential postponement beforehand.

“SU = culture-washing” sign | Jory Mundy

The ACS said that the event had already been delayed twice, and it traditionally promoted tickets at the door over booking through the SU website. The group claimed that it was not informed of the ball’s dependancy on online sales and noted that its previous event used a pay at the door system and had a turnout of over 86 students.

The society criticised the SU’s “commercial decision” to postpone and argued that the event could have gone ahead elsewhere on campus.

The ACS expressed frustration over the postponement’s short notice, having to arrange reimbursement for the DJ, food, decorations, and more.

“As a minority community, we feel invisible. We feel marginalised. We feel that the university is not doing enough”, it added.

Students carried signs saying that “Ethnic minorities are not for your ‘commercial strategy’” and accusing the SU of “culture-washing”.

The ACS’ events officer, who is also the SU’s racial equality officer, criticised the union’s mishandling of the event.

An organiser complained that few cultural events are organised by the universities, being “institutionally racist” for relying on societies to arrange their own. The ACS asked for an apology and that the SU “take ownership”.

An important theme was also the lack of black speakers hired during Black History Month in October. A talk from an ethnic minority lecturer at the university was the only event planned. An SU staff member present stressed that under-representing the month was “not acceptable”.

Student protestors | Jory Mundy

The SU said: “We have offered for the event to be rescheduled to allow more time for ticket sales to increase or an alternative event organised that would be better attended. We welcome conversation about this with our BAME community and have reached out to the African Caribbean Society, Asian Society, and Hispanic Society. 

“We acknowledge that ACS students feel invisible and marginalised and wish to change this moving forward.”

ACS representatives pointed out that there would be little time to reschedule the event during this term for departing third-year students.

When asked about the Anchor’s previous pieces detailing the experiences of ethnic minority students on campus, SU staff were unaware, despite the Anchor engaging in a dialogue with them earlier this academic year.