Kent Union Black History Month Controversy: Where We Go From Here
The events that have unfolded over the past week highlight more than just key issues within Kent Union, they highlight broader failures by the National Union of Students and their policies towards Black History Month. Kent Union and the subgroup within the Union that led the BHM program were naïve to follow the NUS policy which calls for a broadening of the scope of BHM and the societies, specifically the African Caribbean Society, should have been consulted on these events considering how closely they relate to their work and interests. It just makes sense. It makes sense for KU to work with all its societies more closely and especially when it comes to events when societies and communities at the uni can have a real positive and constructive impact.
What has happened since the Zayn Malik post was first published has been nothing short of a shambles for Kent Union. From the unnecessarily large amount of time it took for the post to be pulled down, to the numerous apologies put out by the Union over the course of the aftermath which all differed from one another in tone and substance. There is clearly a lot to be learnt from these damaging mistakes.
However what followed in the Kent Union Forum on Thursday night, which was centred around the controversy of the past week, drifted away from the realms of constructive criticism and into the bounds opportunism and inaccuracy. Some of the comments that night, aimed at the Union President and Vice Presidents, highlighted very real concerns that need to be addressed. The calls for resignation however, were and continue to be simply unnecessary. Rory and the team were elected only earlier this year and have a very strong mandate to implement their manifestos over the rest of this year. This does not define them and the blame does not lie solely at their feet. This also doesn’t define us as a student body.
Mistakes have of course been made but these need to be sorted out on a national level and not just within Kent Union. The whole NUS BHM project, which tries to include other ethnicities in a week which should be used for black history, is flawed. Kent Union has implemented a plan for the coming weeks and months on how to right the wrongs that were aired at the Open Forum and we should get behind that. It’s been said they don’t listen to us, this is their chance to prove us wrong.
Greater communication between the Union and societies, a refreshers Black History Month and closer ties between the African Caribbean Society and Kent Union run events are all part of the plan for the future in the wake of what has happened.
Political opportunism by past Kent Union presidential candidates isn’t respectful of the real issues or in anyway helpful and the vitriol and personal attacks aimed in the direction of the Union, who over the past 50 or so years have represented us and made the lives of many Kent students so much better, is simply unfair.
At the Forum the point was raised that our degrees are now worthless due to this controversy. That is simply not true. What has happened over the past week in no way reflects on any of us students here and the academic staff, our facilities and your hard work continue to ensure that Kent is a world class uni. We must be critical and it is certainly not right for the Union not to be held accountable for this, but everyone should be constructive and realistic.
If we truly want things to get better people have to be willing to stand up. Be proactive, be constructive. Run campaigns. Submit proposals for change through Change It on the Union website. Stand on a platform yourself and campaign for what you believe in rather than tearing someone else down from the sidelines.
This should never have happened. It was wrong. But now we improve as a Union, now we move forward as uni.