UPDATE: Allegations of racism as the Graduate Union is attacked by its current President
Claims made in a Pakistani newspaper say GU President Arsalan Ghani has been prevented from implementing his manifesto by a racially motivated campaign within the Graduate Union.
UPDATE 12pm, Monday 10th September: Varsity has received reports of a 'systematic campaign - at times underhand' against the current GU president. It has been suggested that the antagonism towards Ghani stems at least in part from his political views. Ghani is a 'known left-wing campaigner' and has been an active member of the Cambridge Marxist Society. Our source claimed he was not aware of any 'overt racism', but called 'the underhand manner in which this systematic opposition' was carried out 'deplorable'. 'Covert racism definitely exists in Cambridge student society', he continued: 'had the president been white, I don't believe he would have received the same level of antagonism and abuse'.
UPDATE 10am, Monday 10th September: Liv Watson, former GU president calls the allegations 'utterly baffling'. She went on: 'Changes to the Constitution to allow the GU to become a charity - and thus to have a Trustee Board - were started long before Arsalan voiced his intentions to run for President. The suggestion that I manipulated the Constitution to gain a place on the Trustee Board is particularly bizarre, since I left before the new Constitution came into effect and am not a Trustee. As for the unfounded charges of racism; if I didn't have a hefty student loan to pay off I'd be suing this so-called journalist for libel.'
CUSU LGBT chair Charlie Bell has also expressed his anger, saying that it is 'totally unfair' of the newspaper to 'attack Cambridge students as somehow being against minority groups', calling for The News International to retract their comments immediately. 'They simply cannot get away with telling huge lies', he said. He emphasised that in docking Jeffers' votes, the election committee 'simply followed the rules - in fact, we were more lenient than we should have been'. 'It had nothing to do with the fact that she's black', he added, 'it's frankly just preposterous'.
Original Article 7pm, Sunday 9th September: A stinging attack has been launched against the board members, former GU President Liv Watson and other unnamed students involved with the Graduate Union, by Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper, The News International. The article, which can be found in its entirety here, alleges that GU President Arsalan Ghani, who was elected in March and took office in July, has been a “victim of racial discrimination after a campaign was orchestrated to marginalise him in the union”.
The main criticisms are leveled at last year’s GU President, Liv Watson, who it is suggested used the constitutional changes voted through earlier this year to provide herself with a position on the union’s trustee board thus “undermining the rights of democratically elected presidents and attempting to make them dysfunctional.” Other board members are also accused of making key decisions in financial and administrative matters without Ghani as well as refusing to cooperate with him, resulting in the undermining of his authority.
However the claims are so far unsubstantiated as no students were named as sources and bizarrely no apparent attempt was made by the newspaper to contact anybody at the Graduate Union for comment. Even Ghani is not quoted in the article meaning that there is currently no concrete evidence to support any of the claims made by the paper. The paper’s take on the situation is therefore highly questionable given that it praised Arsalan Ghani on his election victory in March, describing it as a historic achievement in Cambridge’s 800 year history.
Speaking to the The Cambridge Student, Ghani refused to comment on the reporting style of the newspaper but stated that: “I believe that I am discriminated on racial grounds in the Graduate Union. I have launched a complaint to the university authorities in this matter who are investigating. I have all the necessary evidences. Further information, I can only provide after consultation with my lawyers."
As well as addressing the issues faced by Ghani in his two months in office the article goes on to suggest that the acts of racism are not limited to the GU, but were also present in the recent CUSU Presidential elections, which ran concurrent with the GU elections. The CUSU elections were hit with controversy this year after Akilah Jeffers’s was docked 200 first place votes after being found in breach of election regulations regarding campaigning on Facebook. However, this is the first instance where the decision has been publically alleged to have been a trumped up charge due to racial prejudice, with the article claiming that she was “purposely disqualified on the pretence of irregularities.” However as incumbent CUSU President Rosalyn Old eventually beat Jeffers’s by over 700 votes the penalty seems unlikely to have affected the outcome of the election.
So far CUSU, Akillah Jeffers and Arsalan Ghani have either declined to comment or been unavailable when contacted by Varsity staff, however CUSU is expected to release a statement tomorrow morning.