Dear honorable president…

Opinion Writer Beth Gregory looks at the allegations of racism against The Cambridge Student

Cambridge’s student newspaper The Cambridge Student (TCS) have been accused of racist attacks against the President of the Cambridge University Graduate Union, Arsalan Ghani, who is originally from Pakistan. TCS refute this, and claim that articles published about Ghani were in relation to his abuses of power. TCS is an independent student paper and, as such, it is important to hold individuals within the union, university and general area to account when they have been acting in a way which can negatively effect students.

The News International based in Pakistan, who made these initial accusations, are guilty of making sweeping claims, which can prove dangerous if false. Any individual working for a university or a union who is abusing their power needs to be held to account, regardless of their colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, background or sexuality. TCS have claimed that many articles were published in support of Ghani, and had numerous quotes from him, providing balanced arguments. TCS have published articles surrounding his direct involvement with the disappearance of over £1,000, over harassment of the International officer, and his insistence that his colleagues refer to him as “dear honorable president”, amongst other issues. None of these things speak of racism, but all of them are things which the students of Cambridge have a right to know.

Issues of massive, and false accusations within student publications is something which is all too familiar with the gair rhydd, as a few months ago, attempts were made to put a no platform policy into place for Cardiff Student Media, for printing an article concerning Nick Griffin.

The article wasn’t in Griffin’s favour, in fact quite the opposite, yet it was still feared that the publication of this material would encourage fascism. Making massive allegations like these directly acts to hinder student publications freedom of speech. Students should not tip toe around issues because they are afraid of being falsely accused of something, whether that be fascism, racism, or sexism. Ghani’s race does not come in to the issue here. It does not matter whether he is from Pakistan or the U.K, in the same way that if Ghani was female and had also abused his power, the TCS surely wouldn’t be accused of sexism.

To be accused of racism is hugely detrimental, and not something that should be said lightly. As The News International is based in Pakistan, there is obviously some bias towards Ghani, but defending him and his actions does not mean having to resort to such massive accusations. TCS are right to fiercely oppose these claims and stand by the words that have been published.

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