University of York condemns confession pages for racially charged material

They gave a statement to student media groups


Online anonymous confession pages associated with the University of York have recently been condemned for the spread of offensive material regarding race following the recent protests organised for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement around the world.

In such posts, ‘Hez East Fess’ stated:

“Since George Floyd has died, rioters and looters have killed more unarmed black people than the police have. They don’t care about ‘Black Lives'”.

As well as another post making a sarcastic comment linking looting and violence to Hurricane Katrina, asking the ‘Hez East Fess’ following “Is the weather racist too?”

As well as this, admins of ‘Hez East Fess’ posted a submission of a controversial and offensive joke from twitter regarding the use of rubber bullets by the police in protests, claiming that the BDSM community “needs to get in on the protests”.

Since the material was posted, ‘Hez East Fess’ have taken all political posts down from their page and in a recent statement, declared that they will be “removing all politics related posts and no more politics related posts will be allowed through.”

This was then followed up by the confession page defending it’s previous political posts stating that the admins believe in freedom of speech which they state “includes freedom to speak about views some may not agree with.”

They finished with an invitation that any followers of the page wishing to give the admins ways in which to improve their site should privately message them via DM “rather than putting it under a confession.”

However, the post made about the BDSM community in relation to the ongoing protests still remains on their site.

Following these submissions, the University of York have given a statement to student media groups, ensuring that they are “committed to taking action wherever they can” exclaiming that they believe the action of admins allowing “racist and discriminatory material” to be posted via anonymous submission is “absolutely unacceptable” and further encourage students to report such material to the post admins “and/or via the University’s Report and Support tool.” They finished their statement by ensuring that anyone affected by the offensive posts are able to access support through the same pages.

After Giang Nguyen, current YUSU Academic Officer, was personally condemned by a post made to ‘Hez East Fess’ which accused her of hijacking “the death of George Floyd as an excuse to try and push her idea of ‘DeCoLoNizInG tHe CuRrIcUlUm’” she has released a statement claiming that she is “sad, disappointed and angry seeing this post”, further going onto support the University’s new Report and Support tool to call out and such discriminatory posts which will “will help the University to recognise the growing trend of such views via online anonymous forums such as this and encourage them to take further action.”

She also identified a need to liberate and diversify the current curriculum in order to “further social justice for the black community, and the wider BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community at York).

YUSU BAME officers Fiks Aderemi and Simi Odukoya also released an open letter on Tuesday, condemning the online confession pages and branding them as “so cowardly that they have to use their anonymity to hide behind a keyboard.”

They went on to state that they believe it is “inexcusable” that University of York students should hold such hateful thoughts and share these in the form of “hurtful comments on the internet.”

They finished their open letter with a statement directly calling on the University and Student Union to “condemn such sites that foster racism and encourage racist rhetoric and if the administrators of the accounts are found they should face disciplinary actions”. Ending the letter with a powerful statement which encompasses the entire movement; “Don’t be silent, don’t be ignorant. Say their names, say their stories. Black lives Matter.”

YUSU president Samara Jones has released a statement claiming that “As a Union, we stand with our BAME officers” reiterating the thoughts of the university and BAME officers that the actions of the confession pages are “unacceptable”. She also revealed that the Sabbatical team have been taking action to try and “tackle the abuse and damage these pages cause for the community at York”. She further went on to ask students to “consider whether they should be following these pages” as she believes that by engaging with such content has given the behaviour “a mouthpiece”.

She ended her statement by revealing that the “full Union Statement on anonymous social media that will be published on the YUSU website early next week.”

Yorkmemes provided this response to the York Tab:
“We are writing today to condemn YUSU’s recent actions against student-run pages as fundamentally wrong, based on unsubstantiated claims, excessively intimidatory and in violation of the rules and ethos of the Students Union.”
“We, as a student body, condemn YUSU’s statement on non-affiliated confessions pages and request that it either is removed or entirely rewritten to reflect reality.”