An investigation is under way in Cardiff University’s School of Medicine after multiple complaints were made about the content of the Medical Society’s annual comedy charity event, ‘Anaphylaxis’.
A student wore black face paint to portray a lecturer at the School, Doctor T Jeff Allen, which provoked “a number of complaints” from both students and parents. The School of Medicine has responded by launching an independent investigation into the incident.
Anaphylaxis is run every year by third year Medical students, and was advertised by the School of Medicine in their undergraduate degree programme for the 2015/16 intake of students as part of the charity campaign, Heath RAG. This year is was run independent of Heath RAG which has not taken place.
The event is a satirical comedy about the Medical School and in previous years has been notoriously controversial, with a disclaimer beforehand that it would not be suitable for anyone easily offended. All proceeds from ticket sales over the show’s run are donated to charity.
Multiple sources have confirmed to Gair Rhydd that a performer in the sketch ‘blacked up’ in order to portray Doctor Allen, while there have also been suggestions that the “camp” nature of the performance has been interpreted as homophobia.
Speaking to Gair Rhydd, a medic student who wishes to remain anonymous admitted that a student wore black face paint to portray Doctor Allen, but also defended the show, saying that “the nature of Anaphylaxis is to take the piss because it’s supposed to be light-hearted.
“Quite a lot of people find it quite sad that it’s kicking off because the third years put a lot of effort into making it. I don’t think they meant to be racist or homophobic.
“It wasn’t any more offensive or outrageous than last year and it’s a shame that this is overshadowing all the hard work and money raised for charity.”
A Cardiff University spokesperson confirmed to Gair Rhydd that multiple complaints had been received in the aftermath of Anaphylaxis, performances of which took placed on the week beginning 22nd February at the CMC Sports and Social Hall at the University’s Heath Park Campus.
The spokesperson went on to confirm that “the allegations are subject to a formal investigation”, and emphasised that “the School of Medicine takes allegations of this nature extremely seriously.”
It was also revealed that the Dean of Medicine, Professor John Bligh, had written an email to “all staff and students to remind them of the University’s clear policy on equality and diversity.”
The email, which has been seen by Gair Rhydd, was sent on Monday 29th February, and included copies of the University’s Equality and Diversity Policy and its Dignity at Work and Study Policy, along with a memo from Professor Bligh, who said:
“Over the last week I have received a significant number of complaints from Year 3 students, and from parents, about an alleged breach of the University’s Dignity at Work and Equality and Diversity Policies.”
Bligh went on to describe all forms of discrimination as “unacceptable in our Society and, in the context of a medical school, are especially abhorrent and constitute significant unprofessional behaviour raising fitness to practise concerns.
“I am deeply shocked to read these complaints and hope that we can, as a School, resolve them quickly and provide the necessary support for those affected by them.”
MedSoc is part of Cardiff University Students’ Union’s Guild of Societies, and in a statement to Gair Rhydd a Union spokesperson said that it was “aware that the University are undertaking an investigation into this event.
“The investigation and any subsequent action will be undertaken in line with the University policy and procedure.”
The Union spokesperson reaffirmed the University’s condemnation of discrimination, saying “The Union and University will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour by students at Cardiff University, and will continue to work together to clearly communicate expectations and investigate alleged instances of inappropriate behaviour.”
This isn’t the first time that medics have made the headlines for the wrong reasons in the recent past. Last year Gair Rhydd reported that a member of the Medics’ Rugby Club had publicly urinated on a P&O ferry that led to the company banning the team from boarding in future and disciplinary action being taken by the University and Students’ Union.
When asked about the potential consequences for medical students involved, the University spokesperson confirmed that “any student found to have behaved unacceptably may be subject of disciplinary action as set out in the Student Disciplinary Code.
“Any student or member of staff can provide evidence to the investigation and we would encourage them to do so.”
The spokesperson finished by telling Gair Rhydd: “As the independent investigation is on-going, the University will not be commenting further until the outcome of the investigation is known.”