Black student told by uni to ‘seek anger management’ after tweeting about politics
They opened an investigation into her personal tweets
A black student at Sheffield Hallam was investigated by her university and made to sit through a “demeaning” meeting with the senior SHU staff members following tweets on her personal account being flagged to the uni. In this meeting, the university staff members told Abigo Mboke to “seek anger management”, quoted Michelle Obama at her and recommended she “control her emotions”. She was also told that when she meets people with opposing views to her, she should be “constructive” instead of “provok[ing] disruptive behaviour or violence.” She had to bring her medical records to prove she was not a violent person.
Abigo’s tweets during the time of the British General election in late 2019 were reported by a fellow student. She asked her white friend on the same course as her if she had also been reported, because they had both been tweeting negative things in light of the election, but her friend had not.
The university got in touch with Abigo via email, informing Abigo that she would have to attend an investigatory meeting about what she posted, due to the content being “aggressive”, and including “threatening and hateful content”. Abigo was advised in the email to keep the meeting “confidential”.
Abigo told The Sheffield Tab: “The email was on the 22nd January and the meeting on the 24th January, so I had to wait two days where I was full of anxiety. Then they pushed it back a week, and for that whole week I thought I was gonna get kicked out of uni.”
In this meeting, Abigo was made to explain all of the tweets she was reported for, and why she tweeted them. Notes of the meeting were obtained by The Sheffield Tab detailing the whole process.
One of Abigo’s tweets reported to the uni include her responding to a video of a woman being assaulted by referencing “killing all men”. In the meeting, Abigo had to explain that her friend had recently been sexually assaulted and she was upset by it, hence why she tweeted it, she did not actually intend to kill all men.
At this point in the meeting Abigo’s friend, who she had been allowed to bring for moral support, interjected and said that Piers Morgan tweets inflammatory “stuff like this all the time”. The staff member running the meeting then quoted Michelle Obama at Abigo, saying “when they go low, we go high” to illustrate how Abigo should be running her social media.
Abigo then had to explain her tweet in support of a video of a girl who punches a Trump supporter because he is being racist towards her. Abigo said that she was proud of the girls actions in defending herself.
Abigo told The Tab: “It did feel like I was being singled out. It was all so ridiculous the things that were being said to me and even my friend who I brought had to step in and say ‘wait it’s not okay to call her aggressive’ many black women get labeled aggressive for showing the same emotions that people would call me confident for. They just deflected and said it had nothing to with my race but instead the tone of the tweets which I understand but the thing that really struck me was the lack of self awareness. They didn’t even realise how ridiculous it was as people who have never experienced racism telling me to essentially get over it.”
A lot of Abigo’s tweets were centred around the election. One of the tweets that was flagged to the uni said “Good morning I hate this country” and was posted the morning of the election results. Abigo explained that she was feeling upset at the election result and particularly affected because she’s from a low income area of Manchester, so her reaction was “knee-jerk” and the tweets she posted would “never actually be something [she’d] say out loud.”
Other tweets that were flagged were Abigo’s post jokingly implying that she would kill Darren Grimes, a prominent conservative commentator, as well as Conservatives. Abigo had to explain to the SHU staff members the tweets were not serious. She also had to outline that she is “not a violent person” and would never actually “engage in violence like this”.
Another tweet where Abigo mentions destroying Parliament as a joke was dubbed “immature” in the notes of her investigatory meeting. Abigo then told the staff members that the tweet was a joke, and had to apologise for saying she would destroy the Houses of Parliament.
Following this, the staff member running the meeting then told Abigo that her Twitter was public and could be seen by everyone. She told Abigo that when meeting people with opposing views, she should offer to “share knowledge” and be “constructive”, instead of “provoke disruptive behaviour or violence.”
The staff member then told Abigo that she understood she was feeling upset about the election, but that in situations like this “where you are feeling upset or angry, you do have the ability to control your own feelings and have the power to make yourself feel better”.
Abigo was left feeling upset and scared after the meeting, she felt demeaned, and was worried about a disciplinary action. She was then sent the notes. Abigo told The Sheffield Tab: “I feel like in the meeting I could feel them putting words into my mouth. I really felt stupid having to explain to them ‘hey guys…I was joking'” and that “[they were] basically forcing me to say specific things so the meeting would end sooner, basically censoring me I felt like. They didn’t seem to empathise with me at all at the fact that people could just be openly racist on the internet and face no repercussions all they said is that well they’re not Hallam students and I have to ignore it or rise above it. It’s crazy that I had to actually prove I wasn’t a violent person by bringing in even my medical history and that that’s why the tweets were so funny to my friends because I can’t even throw a punch.
“I feel like I don’t really need to stress how wild it is that two white women were telling me that and at one point even have the cheek to quote Michelle Obama. At one point they even suggested I seek anger management. I don’t know where to start with how messed up this entire situation is. The whole situation really messed with my head, I thought I was going to lose my place at uni.”
Later Abigo was notified that no disciplinary action would be taken against her, but she would have to follow the SHU guidelines for posting all future tweets. She was told she must “must adhere to University good practice on social media use” for the future.
A spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University told The Tab: “We can confirm that the University received a complaint about social media posts that included violent, threatening and offensive content.
“We invited the student who created these posts to attend a meeting, along with a close friend and their Student Support Advisor, which is the usual process when a complaint of this nature is made.
“The result of the meeting was that no disciplinary action was taken, but the student was reminded of their responsibility to follow the student code of conduct, and refrain from posting violent and threatening content that could cause offence and distress to others.
“Sheffield Hallam is an open, tolerant and inclusive community, and we are committed to creating an environment that celebrates diversity, equality and fairness.”
Photo (before edits) by Dan Gold on Unsplash