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“We must educate ourselves” on racial privilege, YUSU President writes in response to PTO’s criticism

Image: The Yorker
Image: The Yorker
Image: The Yorker

The President of the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) has written a response to an incoming Part-Time Officer who criticised the election of a white former college chair as the former’s successor.

Writing for Nouse, which printed last week on Tuesday 6th, Alex Urquhart stated that his life “has not been played out on a level field” and encouraged students “to renew action for marginalized groups in our union, university, city and world”.

It is the responsibility of each student, Urquhart wrote, to “educate [themselves]” on matters of racial privilege:

Every single one of us must take action to tackle inequality and injustice in our society beyond the work that YUSU does and will continue to do. It is down to you, the student, to care, to educate yourself, to listen and to be an ally. The scale of this issue requires all our officers, JCRCs, CSAs, student media, societies, students, and institutions, to be the momentum needed to create lasting social change.

Later, Urquhart insisted that “White people must understand the dynamics of privilege, and be honest that hidden beyond our self-image sits a range of prejudices we have gradually adopted.”

In his article, Urquhart announced that he is working with the Students’ Union on “a new academic strategy that specifically looks at social exclusion” and called for every white student in a prominent position on campus, including elected Union officers, student societies and student newspaper editors, to “Find ways to empower and recruit more BAME people with lived experience into your teams, your communities, your activities, your courses.”

Urquhart acknowledged the “comments of our newly elected BAME officer Nayomi,” a reference to Nayomi Karthigesu’s opinion piece on the back page of York Vision, which printed the week before last. The Yorker understands that the Editor of Nouse offered the President a column in Tuesday’s edition of the paper in order to publicly respond to Karthigesu’s article.

“For a University filled with such a diverse range of people,” Karthigesu, York Vision‘s Scene Editor, wrote for her newspaper last week, “it seems our student union is dominated by a worrying minority who trade on their race and privilege to attain almost certain electoral victory.”

The Yorker has contacted Alex Urquhart, Nayomi Karthigesu, York Vision for comment.