Content warning: this article refers to incidents of anti-Semitism and racism.
One of my first memories of Freshers Week was finding out about the infamous white t-shirt social, which injected much more fascism into my fledgling undergraduate life than I expected. If you aren’t aware of the story, last year the Snowsports Society organised a night out billed as “the rowdiest bar crawl in Exeter.” Some attendees wrote inflammatory phrases on each other’s white t-shirts, such as “don’t speak to me if you’re not white” and “the Holocaust was a good time” being flaunted around Exeter, which is hilarious if you’re the kind of person whose sense of humour is similar to the ethnic-cleansing ideology of a 1940s war criminal.
Unsurprisingly, when word of the social got out, there was much backlash, leading to the Athletics Union banning future white t-shirt socials. Some are calling for the return of these socials, because apparently the freedom to wear a plain t-shirt on a night out is of a higher priority than not allowing Holocaust jokes.
As you may have guessed, I think the ban on these socials should remain in force. I can’t say I agree with those who believe the cool-down period on public anti-Semitism is precisely one year, and after that we should be totally chill with providing platforms for people to do it all over again. Anti-Semitism is clearly an issue at the university anyway, with swastikas being scratched into doors in Birks accommodation last year.
I can’t say I agree with those who believe the cool-down period on public anti-Semitism is precisely one year
Not only is having a platform for racism inherently a terrible and immoral idea, but the issue is particularly pertinent with the increasing presence of neo-Nazis in our politics and media. If white t-shirt socials were unbanned under such controversial circumstances, there would undoubtedly be some Banter Lads immediately unsheathing their sharpies, ready to write the most offensive things they can possibly think of, whilst remaining protected from any oppression whatsoever by the shield of white privilege.
The need for white t-shirt socials is non-existent. If them being hotbeds for hate speech wasn’t enough for you, they’re incredibly boring. Exeter’s pubs will not miss sixty drunk students stumbling in sporting crudely drawn penises, sexual innuendos, and hate speech. Bringing them back would send a message to incoming students that the university offers a space for racial derision and genocide jokes.