Students warned about discrimination in the wake of coronavirus following an incident at Downing College

A group of Chinese students were subject to racist discrimination at lunch in Downing Hall


Girton students have been warned about “accusations of discrimination” at the University concerning the recent outbreak of coronavirus, in an email from the Girton JCR President, Nicole Brocksom. This comes a week after an incident at Downing College, where people refused to let a group of Chinese students sit on the same table.

The Master of Downing College, Alan Bookbinder sent an email to the staff and students about the incident where a group of Chinese students were discriminated at lunch. They were allegedly turned away by people eating at the table, despite there being empty seats, and a “disparaging remark” was made.

Bookbinder went on to say it was uncertain which college the students at the table were from, yet “either way the behaviour is unacceptable”. In a closing remark, he says “I take seriously any case of discrimination that happens on our premises, and wanted to make you all aware of this unhappy event”.

In her email to Girton students, Brocksom states “we would like to remind everyone that refusing to sit next to someone for fear of catching the virus, based on appearance, is not only discriminatory but highly offensive.”

Image may contain: Architecture, Building, Campus, Grass, Plant, College

Girton College. (Photo credit: Mihnea Maftei)

Last week, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, issued the following statement: “we urge everyone to remain respectful and supportive of those members of our community who, at what is already a time of heightened anxiety, may feel subjected to unfounded scrutiny”.

In cooperation with Public Health England's Health Protection Team in Cambridge, the Unversity have issued guidance for students, staff and those affiliated with the University.

Today, four more people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.K, bringing the total to eight. The Department of Health now view the coronavirus as “a serious and imminent threat” to public health.

Last week, Cambridge’s Lion Gate shopping mall received backlash following the decision to cancel its Chinese New Years’ Event, with people calling the action “racism”, “reactionary” and “completely unacceptable” on Twitter.

The news comes two weeks after it was reported that Jesus College hosted 15 students from Wuhan between the 13th and 22nd January 2020.

Cover Photo Credit: Steve Cadman