Open letter on xenophobia responds to SU voter coercion scandal

 

Last month, newly elected SU candidates Shaswat Jain, Furqan Khan, and Nakul Patwa signed an open letter published on Facebook titled  ‘Xenophobia & Racism Against International Students at KCL’, which responds directly to allegations of harassment of women and voter coercion. 

The letter claims the results of the KCLSU Spring Elections as a ‘victory against Xenophobia’ and highlights the rise in international students running for SU positions.

 

What happened during the elections?

On March 8th the announcement of the KCLSU Spring Elections was disrupted by protestors claiming the harassment of women and non-binary students by candidates. The results were later announced online.

In the week following the announcement, various societies took to the streets to protest the election results outside Bush House South Wing. One society at the head of these protests was KCL Intersectional Feminist Society, who later posted an ‘open letter’ on their Facebook page titled ‘Call to Action against THE HARASSMENT OF WOMEN in KCLSU ELECTIONS’.

 

Alleged voter coercion and harassment of women

The letter put out by Intersectional Feminist Society questioned candidates Shaswat Jain (President-elect), Furqan Khan (VP-elect Welfare & Community), Gurbaaz Gill (VP-elect Education Arts & Sciences), and Nakul Patwa (VP-elect Activities & Development) on their legitimacy.

The society claims that the named candidates’ campaigns were ‘built on by employing tactics of intimidation that have been targeted at women, with a specific focus on women of colour’. Intersectional Feminist Society calls for ‘explicit condemnations’ as well as possible expulsion of the candidates’ Student Union position.

Since it was posted on the society’s Facebook, the statement has been signed by 154 people. Some signatories include KCL LGBT+ Society, Decolonise KCL, KCL Cut the Rent, KCL Justice for cleaners, KCL Marxist Society, and the President of Sheffield Hallam University’s Student Union.

 

The elected candidates’ response

The letter against xenophobia and racism responded directly to Intersectional Feminist Society’s accusations, stating the claims of harassment were ‘pulled out of thin air’. The letter also accuses the society of targeting specific candidates because candidates who they endorsed ‘could not beat’ those elected. The letter mentions how ‘heartbreaking’ it is to see a direct marginalisation and ostracisation of candidates of colour, going so far as to state ‘the safety of international students is at risk’.

The letter is signed by 126 people including Shaswat Jain, Furqan Khan, and Nakul Patwa who are under suspicion of electoral misconduct. Other signatories included students from Imperial College London, University of Westminster, and Florida Atlantic University.

A member of KCL India Society, where Jain was previously President, commented on the letter to Roar, stating, ‘generally speaking, xenophobia against international students does exist at King’s, in my opinion, as I’ve seen how home students behave in front of international students by giving them way too much attitude etc’.

However, he does not refute the allegations of voter coercion against Jain. ‘I know so many of my friends who had their phones snatched off from them, by people who were part of Shaswat’s campaign team, specifically, and they were forced to log onto KCLSU and vote for them which is outright unethical’.

The 2018/19 SU Committee has since given a more robust response, announcing on March 29th that an external party will ‘conduct a review of our overall elections process and to draw upon key lessons learned from the spring 2019 elections’. The full statement can be found here.

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