The Students’ Guild has been accused of attempting to cover up the circumstances surrounding the mysterious disappearance of this year’s #NeverOK pledge posters.
Sources have revealed to Exeposé that racist and Islamophobic messages were written on this year’s posters, despite Shades, the Guild President, insisting that they were instead “torn”. They also contained messages relating to Mens’ Rights Activism.
The posters, which also formed part of last year’s campaign, were signed by students who sign up to the #NeverOK pledge, which includes agreeing to take action to prevent sexual harassment, not tolerating jokes about sexual harassment and educating themselves and others about consent. One of last year’s pledge posters remains on display in Devonshire House.
“In the process of moving they got a bit damaged” – shades
Despite the pledge posters being brought out at the #NeverOK launch event on 1 November, they have since disappeared. When questioned at Shadow Council at the end of Term 1, Shades told Councillors that “in the process of moving they got a bit damaged to be honest, and we’re trying to trying to make sure that the presentation is impeccable, and once we have that in place, we can put them up.” When pushed further over how they were damaged, Shades said that she had “no clue”.
However, when the issue was raised again at a later Shadow Council, she instead claimed that they had been “physically torn” and that she had discovered them after she “came in on a weekend.”
In contrast to the claims made by Shades, sources have told Exeposé that the posters were removed by a member of the Sabbatical team not because they had been torn, but because offensive messages were written on them. One eyewitness told Exeposé that: “I walked in and there was this dude kneeling down next to the #NeverOK posters at the bottom of the stairs where they put the Christmas tree. He was writing about Men’s Rights Activism and that people can’t be censored, and implying that the #NeverOK thing was in some way sexist against men.” Another pointed out that there was a “white power slogan”, and words about “women being oppressed by Islam.”
This comes after multiple incidents of a racial or religious nature last year, in which “the Holocaust was a good time” and “don’t talk to me if you’re not white” were written on attendees at a white t-shirt social, a Swastika was carved into a door at Birks Grange Village, and a ‘Rights for Whites’ sticker was found in Llewellyn Mews.
When Exeposé followed up the claims with the Students’ Guild, we were told that “Shades is correct” despite further queries being raised about the inconsistencies between her accounts of the damage, and that “the #NeverOK posters were damaged last term.” When pushed further on the exact damage that had occurred, the Guild declined to comment.
At Shadow Council on Tuesday 23 January, Shades claimed that “they’re [the posters] literally with Comms because they’re torn”. Later that day, Exeposé made a request to the Guild’s Communications Department to see the posters, and were denied. A second request on Thursday 25 January was turned down on the basis that “they have since been disposed of due to this damage and therefore cannot be seen”. When Exeposé asked when the posters had been disposed of, the Guild declined to comment.
Emma Wallace and Tabitha-Levis Jarsdel, co-Presidents of Exeter Feminist Society, told Exeposé: “If it’s true that the #NeverOK posters were vandalised with misogynistic, as well as Islamophobic and white supremacist, language, then that’s disgusting. Not only does this undermine the original campaign to stop sexual assault on campus and the surrounding area, but a potential cover up by the Guild questions their original commitment to #NeverOK.
“The Guild needs to be more accountable and not privilege their own reputation in concealing and failing to acknowledge Exeter’s problems. You cannot protect Muslim, Jewish, BME or non-male students from this type of prejudice by lying about it. The Guild needs to be more transparent and forthcoming if instances like this happen in future.”
“unfortunately, this year’s boards were vandalised and damaged” – guild spokesperson
On the day that this article was set to go to print, a spokesperson for the Students’ Guild admitted that vandalism had occurred, in contrast to what was said by Shades and previous claims from the Guild. The statement read: “For the past two years we have asked Exeter students to pledge to the ideals of the #NeverOK campaign both online and on pledge boards. Unfortunately this year’s boards were vandalised and damaged during this process which resulted in them being removed. Months later, when Exeposé asked to view them we were unable to produce them because they were disposed of as we were unable to use them for display.
“It is unfortunate that this damage and coverage of it will detract from an important campaign that highlighted for two years many of the issues that we are now seeing at the forefront of public consciousness.”
In response to this piece, Shades, the Guild President, wrote:
There are a couple of things brought up by Exeposé in this article seemingly only for the purpose of sensationalising this issue. I stand by the claims about the posters being damaged, they were vandalised which if you look up in a dictionary means deliberately damaged; I wouldn’t want to mention the issues like Islamophobia/ Male-activist views on a public forum like Shadow Council to prevent any triggers/concerns amongst students who might feel vulnerable in this respect. At the time of the vandalism we considered if we could pursue the offenders further and we could not due to a lack of evidence. We seek to promote an inclusive community at Exeter and such sensationalisation only hinders the productivity of our campaigns. It is a shame that the witness did not come forward at the time where we could have taken action. It is important to acknowledge that the Guild never denied to comment at any point, if details were unknown, however, this was made clear.