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Interview: KCL Boat Club President Ceyda Oral on Guy’s Bar racism boycott

King’s College London (KCL) Boat Club is boycotting Guy’s Bar after the KCL Students’ Union (KCLSU) allegedly failed to act when one of their members was subject to racist abuse at the venue.

In an interview with Roar, KCL Boat Club President Ceyda Oral stated that a student from another sports society ‘racially assaulted’ the victim in question in the bathroom.

She went on to explain how when the club contacted KCLSU over the incident, they did nothing to help the victim.

Despite Guy’s Bar being the club’s place to be on Wednesday nights, this led to its unanimous decision to boycott the SU’s Guy’s campus venue:

“We didn’t want to spend any money and time in that venue if that was what they were going to be doing.”

How did KCLSU react (or not react) to the incident?

According to Oral, KCLSU argued that since there is no CCTV footage permitted in the bathrooms at Guy’s Bar, there is no proof of the incident occurring. Beyond that, KCLSU allegedly stated that since the accused perpetrator is themselves an ethnic minority, their being racist is unlikely. The perpetrator was also reportedly protected by a character reference submitted to KCLSU by the committee of their sports team.

Oral acknowledged the club’s lack of proof that the incident took place but contended “nevertheless it did, and we have a very affected member on our end.” She additionally questioned the idea that a member of an ethnic minority cannot be racist.

This is not the first time the Boat Club has butt heads with KCLSU. Oral described how following KCLSU’s failure to handle an investigation with which club had been involved over the summer, the SU was compelled to amend some of its policies. Considering this, the club had been hopeful for change, but was now only further disappointed.

She additionally described how KCLSU’s lack of action hit close to home due to the Boat Club’s pride in their continued efforts to move away from the white-dominated nature of rowing.

 How have other sports societies responded?

Oral stated that the Boat Club was not the only sports society who had experienced racism at Guy’s Bar, and certainly not the only society who feels neglected by KCLSU.

“Sadly, after speaking to presidents of other sports teams, it’s starting to become apparent that it’s not a rare occurrence. And when they’ve reported it, similar things have happened where nothing has been done about it. I think I should count myself lucky that I got a response to my email complaint. Other societies are saying that they didn’t, so it’s seeming to be something that keeps cropping up when I’m talking to other presidents.”

Considering her mutual frustration with other societies, Oral predicts that the Boat Club’s boycott will have a large impact on the bar.

“We’re quite a big club. I think we’re the second biggest sports team, so I imagine all of us not going will have quite an impact. And we’ve had loads of feedback from other sports teams supporting our boycott as well and the MSA, so they have also said they won’t be going along.”

Guy’s Bar: a recurring site of controversy

This is not the first time sports societies, including the Boat Club, are speaking out against injustice at Guy’s Bar . In October of last year, several sports societies petitioned KCL and KCLSU over their lack of effort when handling the spiking epidemic taking place at the time.

“We were more than happy to join in with it, and then GB brought in the covers for the cups and they took lots of measures to try and combat it which was great to see and then the boycott ended. Essentially that’s kind of what I’m looking for too. I want something in place or I want something to happen that means people just feel a bit more safe and can expect to go to the bar, have fun, and leave in a fairly happy and safe manner.”

What does the Boat Club hope to achieve?

 Oral stated she hopes the boycott achieves “justice for the victim in the sense that they’re believed and they’re heard” and allows “people of all ethnicities and backgrounds to feel safe going to venues on campus whether that’s in the Boat Club or a different club.”

“We’re at King’s. It’s one of the most diverse universities in the world and this shouldn’t be a problem that we’re dealing with. Sometimes I have to take a step back and be like “I’m really dealing with that in 2022?” But essentially, I think it’s something we have to nip in the bud as soon as possible.”

In a final message, Oral encouraged readers to avoid being silent bystanders in any situation of abuse.

“Any support that you can offer people in those situations, or just pointing out that something that someone said is hurtful and isn’t acceptable, I think would go a long way. I think if that would have happened in this situation, we wouldn’t be going through this right now.”

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