Row over men and whites ban at student diversity event

The Ben Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths, University of London. Pic: Victoria Galvin

The Ben Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths, University of London. Pic: Victoria Galvin

The management of Goldsmiths college has expressed concern over a Students’ Union event aimed at promoting racial and gender diversity which men and white people were asked not to attend.

The Union Welfare and Diversity Officer, Bahar Mustafa, has faced criticism after she posted to Facebook ahead of the April 21 event: “If you’ve been invited and you’re a man and/or white PLEASE DON’T COME just cos [sic] I invited a bunch of people and hope you will be responsible enough to respect this is a BME women and non-binary [gender] event only”. She went on: “Don’t worry lads we will give you and allies things to do [winking smiley face]”.

The post was the subject of an immediate backlash. With the Union facing accusations of racism and sexism, a senior Union official – speaking on condition of anonymity – described Mustafa’s post as “patronising beyond belief”, adding that: “[Mustafa] has made it very difficult for white cis[gender] males on campus, who feel like they can’t say anything for fear of retribution.

“The irony that she (or they) think that they are diversifying the student community in the name of feminism and multiculturalism is laughable.”

Goldsmiths’ administration declined to comment on the incident directly, saying only that: “We have no involvement in [the Union’s] decision-making or the programme of events that they offer.” They did, however, say that the university had written to the Union to “express concern” over Mustafa’s comments. The organiser of the event, Union Education Officer Sarah El-alfi, has not responded to a request for comment.

The event, entitled “Gold BME: Holding Senior Management to Account”, was billed as “an event inviting students to talk about DIVERSIFYING OUR CURRICULUM” for “all self-defining BLACK and ETHNIC MINORITY women and non-binary people with gender identities that include ‘woman’.”

In an apparent criticism of the recent Occupy Goldsmiths protests on and around the campus, the event description continued: “Occupations (especially in higher education) are too often dominated by white, male, and able-bodied people… our occupation was initially very white and male and therefore deterred BME and women (especially BME women) and disabled students.

“The dynamics however did change because of the hard work of BME women and disabled students in the space challenging the white-centric culture of occupations.”

The Facebook page for the event, to which Mustafa posted on April 15, has since been taken down.

Regarding a previous event, Mustafa tweeted on February 24:

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