The Guild of Students has been awarded an ‘Excellent’ status by the National Union of Students’ (NUS) Quality Students’ Unions regulatorWritten by Josh Hamilton on 22nd June 2017
Fascist Graffiti Reappears in Guild Toilets
Several instances of fascist graffiti targeted at certain groups have recently been discovered in the Guild of Students’ toilets
Content Warning: this article features written slurs and photos of fascism, disableism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia
In the most recent incident, that took place at around 5:30pm on Thursday 9th March, a committee member of Disabled & Mental Health Association (DAMSA) found fascist graffiti in the female toilets nearest to Beorma Bar. In the graffiti, ‘NO BLACKS, NO CRIPS, NO FAGS’ was written beneath a National Action logo, with ‘PURE WHITES ONLY’ written on one side of the logo, whilst a swastika appeared on the other side of it.
National Action is a British neo-Nazi youth organisation that is considered by the British government to be a terrorist group, which means that it is a criminal offence to support or be a member of it.
“'We stand, with students, fundamentally in opposition to the rhetoric of the graffiti'
Guild President Ellie Keiller told Redbrick that the Officer Team are ‘horrified’ by the incident, saying: ‘We stand, with students, fundamentally in opposition to the rhetoric of the graffiti and against all forms of hate and discrimination.'
Keiller also urged affected students to make use of the Guild and University services available. ‘If anyone has been affected by any of the incidents,’ she said, ‘please do not hesitate to use our Guild Advice or Student Mentor services or visit University Student Support Services in the Aston Webb Student Hub.’
In a public statement on Monday 13th March, the Guild Full Time Officer Team said: ‘We would like to reassure students that we are doing all we can in response to these incidents, including immediately reporting all cases to both police and campus security and working with them to identify those involved. Further to this, we urge anyone with any information regarding these incidents to come forward.’
In a statement released on Saturday 11th March, DAMSA strongly condemned this behaviour and encouraged those affected to access the support available at the University. The statement said, ‘[DAMSA] extends our solidarity to other groups who have been affected by this latest wave of fascist graffiti’, and that they would be reaching out to the other groups affected to coordinate a response.
“'there must also be a long-term plan to deal with the repeated fascist actions on campus'
The statement also expressed concern over the rise of global fascism and the increase of fascist rhetoric used by political candidates. The group has called on the Guild to publicly condemn these incidents, but said, ‘there must also be a long-term plan to deal with the repeated fascist actions on campus, as simply reacting after the event is not enough.’
The Guild’s Anti Racism & Anti Fascism Officer, Rachel Fisch, told Redbrick, ‘At the University of Birmingham, every student regardless of race, gender, ability, religion or sexuality has the right to walk around their campus free from fear of persecution.
‘The recent incidents that have taken place are unacceptable and unjustifiable, and your officer team are working hard to resolve the issue and bring justice. I encourage any students with any concerns or issues to feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.'
Speaking to Redbrick, Ben Whale, Treasurer of LGBTQ Association, said: ‘There's been a previous history of graffiti in the Beorma female toilets with slurs targeted to groups meeting at the time.’
Fascist graffiti previously appeared in the Guild's toilets when DAMSA, LGBTQ Association and Jewish Society (J-Soc) each hosted their events in Beorma Bar. Redbrick has learnt that graffiti saying ‘Lock up all CRAZY PSYCHOS + subhumans’ was found in the same toilets whilst a DAMSA event was held during holocaust memorial week in January.
Responding to the most recent incident, Birmingham J-Soc expressed their concern over these incidents of offensive graffiti and encouraged Jewish students who are concerned by these events to contact J-Soc, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), or the Community Security Trust (CST).
UJS also made a statement condemning the recent incidents of ‘offensive and disturbing graffiti’ at UoB. In the statement UJS said that they are ‘working closely with Birmingham J-Soc, the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Guild of Students, as well as campus security, the police and the CST’ as part of ongoing investigations.’
Whale also told Redbrick that another incident, targeting LGBTQ students this time, happened on the 30th November 2016, when graffiti was found in the Guild saying ‘dirty faggots’. According to Whale, the day before this incident, swastikas appeared in the same location while J-Soc were meeting.
Following similar incidents in the first semester, the Guild and the University made a joint statement ‘unreservedly’ condemning the racist, antisemitic and homophobic graffiti. The statement continued by saying: ‘Our University is a community of 150 nations and we are proud to be situated in a vibrant multi-cultural city. Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.’
“'it's not good enough to just paint over it and get the police to record it'
The Guild and the University also said that they were ‘actively’ working to bring people together and ensure that the University is a place where diversity is celebrated. The Guild stressed that it works hard to ensure that the building is a safe space for all of its members, saying ‘we are angry that this has been threatened by the actions of hateful individuals who have no place on our campus.’
Referring to previous responses to this string of incidents, Whale, who is in his 4th year of studies, said ‘it's not good enough to just paint over it and get the police to record it.’
He also expressed concern over the lack of communication with other relevant services on campus. ‘I had to tell the chaplaincy about the November incidents,’ he said, ‘the chaplains hadn't been told, and of course they would want to know to be available for anyone affected by it.’