As a First Year student I have been at Exeter now for two weeks and have settled into the university very quickly. However, I was disappointed with the ‘anti-prejudice march’ held in the Forum on 26th September. Much to my alarm, an event that was supposed to be about condemning prejudice and, specifically, condemning anti-Semitism on campus, rapidly transformed into a politically motivated attack against Brexit, controlled immigration and capitalism.
Quite why those three were the main target of criticism during what was meant to be a march against prejudice I do not know. Those who have read Locke or Mill will appreciate the right of others to voice their opinion, but to unnecessarily politicise a march against prejudice is to trivialize the very unfortunate episode of anti-Semitism that occurred on campus.
Perhaps the greatest irony was that, for me at least, I felt that the march was prejudiced against those of us, including myself, who voted Leave on 23rd June. I was made to feel somehow bigoted and xenophobic for voting the way I did, despite neither bigotry nor xenophobia playing any role when I cast my vote, along with millions of others who simply do not deserve the prejudice they received in the Forum.
The suggestion that international students were ‘no longer welcome’ at the University as a consequence of Brexit was frankly absurd and the implication that Leave voters are inherently closed-minded was downright insulting, to say nothing of the ‘Those of us on the left’ remark. The lesson I walked away with was that prejudice is an acceptable mode of political expression, provided it is directed towards the appropriate audience.
That said, I do commend Mark Kiner for his concluding speech; he focused on the issue at hand and did not turn the event into an opportunity for political point-scoring. It would have been appreciated if the other speakers could have made a similar effort.