Following the racism controversy, the first Indian woman elected as President of Oxford Students Union Rashmi Samant has quit the post and offered an apology. Her racist, anti-Semitic, trans-phobic statements regrettably alienated a large number of students after which the Oxford Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) registered a strong condemnation against her along with the Oxford LGBTQ+ campaign. The student groups demanded an apology and her resignation. On the other hand, Samant has penned an open letter seeking forgiveness.
The 22-year-old became the first Indian woman to be elected president of the Oxford University Student Union (SU) in the history of the institution, and brought a lot of cheer back home with political leaders congratulating her on social media. Her manifesto focused on “decolonization of syllabi and decarbonisation of the world-famous establishment.” She went to Manipal Institute of Technology, Karnataka. In her election, she received 1,966 of the 3,708 votes cast for the post.
The story of pride and glory has changed the route to the path of learning and self-educating to be a more inclusive leader as she faced criticism for racist social media posts. In one of them, she made a holocaust pun while visiting the Berlin Holocaust Memorial in 2017. In another, she captioned her photo clicked in Malaysia as “Ching Chang”. There are allegations of transphobia against her, which became evident after a campaign post that captioned women and trans women separately. The students found it alarming and gave a statement, which was published in Oxford’s newspaper: “The LGBTQ+ Campaign is equally alarmed by the recent revelations about the Oxford SU President-Elect. Although we understand that her remarks on the trans community may have come from a place of ignorance, we find her repeated insensitivity to race and her unwillingness to apologize when called out for this far more concerning.”
With this, the LGBTQ+ Campaign joined CRAE demanding the need for her to step down. The Union has found no evidence of malice or defamatory campaign against Samant, her posts spoke for the wrongdoing.
“If Ms. Samant truly intends to grow, self-educate, and better herself, she must show remorse and recognise that she is not currently capable of representing the groups to whom she has caused offence. As such, we expect her immediate letter of resignation and a formal apology to the East-Asian, Jewish, and trans communities,” said The Oxford Student, which is Oxford’s biggest student newspaper, published weekly by and for members of the University of Oxford.
In her open letter, Samant pleaded with the students to trust her apology and intentions. She said she is unhappy about losing the trust of students and is pained. “Regrettably, I alienated people within our wonderful student community to the extent that they deem me unfit to be the leader they rightfully deserve. I sincerely apologise to every student who has been hurt by my actions or words and seek a chance to gain your trust in me again.”
She acknowledged her shortcomings and expressed her willingness to learn, “I have learnt tremendously to say the least but my learning is nowhere near complete. I will personally reach out to each community over the next few days and make the utmost efforts to unlearn and relearn nuances of every diverse community so that when it is my time to assume the role of President, I will be the person this community deserves.”
In an interview with TOI, she said that “I do not hate any community, everyone thinks I am a terrible person and I am not.”