The Sabbs were roasted by students in lengthy BHM mess-up discussion

It went on for hours


After Kent Union thought that Zayn Malik and Sadiq Khan were good choices for being the totems of Black History Month, the Sabbs went to answer your concerns on the issue in a question and answer session.

Present were all five elected Sabbatical Officers, including Rory Murray, who has faced many criticisms and calls to resign as President in the wake of the scandal. Also in the panel was Hillary Juma, Kent’s Ethnic Minorities Officer, and Dr Wayne Campbell, Director of Student Services. The moderator was Dave Thomas, lecturer of Music and Fine Arts at Medway campus.

There was a large audience of several hundred people.

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(Left to Right): Ruth Wilkinson, VP for Activities. Clara Lee, VP for Welfare. Elliott Shell, VP for Sports. Dave Cocozza, VP for Education

The event occurred in two stages. First the moderator posed 10 questions from the internet to the Sabbs, and later the audience was allowed to ask questions directly.

The mood in the room swung wildly depending on what was said or asked. Much of the focus was directed towards Rory Murray. Thunderous applause dominated the room when one attendee called directly for Murray to resign.

Meanwhile, when asked what “black” meant to him, the audience booed and hissed when Rory commented: “This isn’t for me to answer. If you want to tell us what that word means, then tell us!”

This question was posed several more times to him directly, with him conceding that he had to do more research.

Rory apologised multiple times, including one occasion when he said: “We have let you down. We apologise. We will learn from this experience”, further adding: “We made a mistake. We apologise”.

After the thunderous applause to the call for Rory to resign, he at one stage looked set to cry.

Dave Cocozza, VP for Education, tentatively agreed with the focus on Rory Murray, saying: “It was right that Rory was focussed on. We as a team decided this was the right way of going about it. Tonight was the start of something more. More discussion, not more anger.”

The VP insisted though that discourse about the incident should stay within more rational bounds, adding: “It’s been a tough 48 hours. Nobody imagined it would be this extreme. I’ve had threats of violence, as has my fiancé.”

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Rory Murray (Centre) was intensively grilled on the night, facing several calls to resign.

Passions flared, with many grievances aired, but despite the Union frequently offering to listen and provide workshops, many were not satisfied. One student explained how she “didn’t feel welcome” when coming to the Union to lodge a complaint, accusing the Sabbs directly “I did come to you and nothing was done!”

Another explained how at a Union consultation “I got a voucher for Essentials but all of my ideas were ignored”, insisting that the previous event was a waste of time. “When does the Union come to us?” rhetorically asked yet another.

The African and Caribbean Society complained that the Union didn’t treat them with the proper respect. This came amid a litany of complaints around race issues.

One student spoke for many when they pointed out that “when it’s Varsity, we all know.”

Another student triggered many when asking if Caitlyn Jenner would be an appropriate role model to put up for a hypothetical women’s history month.

In the end, some attendees were pleased. Zara, a third year History and English Literature Joint Honors student, noted: “It was productive. From this you can only move forward. Despite outburst as long as you get answers you can move forward.” She later summarised the past few days as “Lots of uproar but for me the issue is where it is going. Can we channel this anger into a positive change or not?”

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Fellow attendee Leon, the BAME Officer for the UKC Labour Party agreed: “It went well. Could have been handled better but ultimately it went well.”

Commenting on previous performance, Leon reflected: “It [the Zayn Malik picture] was a major mistake. I do think the Union’s handling was poor. If they just listen and respond to issues raised tonight and actually implement them in a meaningful way it can effect some sort of lasting change. I do think that some of the Sabbs handling has been highhanded and not taking black students seriously.”

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Others were less satisfied. The event was covered intensely by Rory Murray’s long time rival from the last Sabbatical election, You You Xue. On social media he posted at one stage: “Never have I ever heard so much passion from students in one forum. This entire meeting held by Kent Union was a huge mistake, a massive embarrassment, and did nothing but further belittle the entire black student struggle and movement. Zero responsibility and zero questions answered.”

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In other posts, the former candidate, who maintains a small but loyal following, hashtagged #RoryResign and made his profile picture to feature himself in a parody of the offending Black History Month images.