Uni of York announces new college named after human rights defender David Kato

Kato was a Protective Fellow on York’s Human Rights Defenders Programme

The University of York has named its new college after the Ugandan human rights defender and gay rights activist, David Kato.

David Kato visited the University in 2010 as a Protective Fellow on the Human Rights Defenders Programme at the Centre for Applied Human Rights. His time at York acted as a respite from his role in Uganda as a human rights activist.

Kato returned home to Uganda to fight the country’s controversial anti-homosexuality act but was murdered in Kampala in 2011, weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid paper that called for homosexuals to be killed.

York’s Vice Chancellor, Charlie Jeffery said: “Colleges are an integral part of University life here at York and we knew we wanted an inspiring role model when naming our new college – one which would also reflect our belief in equality, diversity and inclusion.”

He went on to say: “It is particularly poignant as we celebrate our status as a University of Sanctuary, in recognition of our approach to offering a welcoming and safe place for refugees, asylum seekers and other people who have been forced to migrate.”

“We are especially grateful to David’s family for working with us and supporting us in this decision. We hope that by using his name many more people will become aware of the important work he championed.”

The David Kato College is one of two colleges under construction on Campus East. The other college has already been named after LGBT diarist, Anne Lister and will open for students in September 2021. The name was selected from a list of suggestions of notable people with connections to the university and the city, which were put forward by students and staff before being confirmed by the University.

Professor Paul Gready, Director of the Centre for Applied Human Rights, said: “The naming of the David Kato College also symbolises and demonstrates our admiration of, and solidarity with, human rights defenders across the world and with all previous Protective Fellows, of which there have been over 90 from more than 45 countries over the last 12 years.”

This announcement comes during national Refugee Week (14-20 June) as the University celebrates its newly-awarded status as a University of Sanctuary. An online launch event on Wednesday 16th June will include the launch of a film that tells the story of how York became a University of Sanctuary for refugees, asylum seekers, human rights defenders and will follow with a round-table discussion. Free tickets and more information can be found here. 

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