Photographic Proof of Security Manhandling Sanaz at LUU’s Why is My Curriculum White Event

It has been brought to our attention that the Leeds Tab published a piece about Sanaz’s intervention at the Why is My Curriculum White Leeds Launch. Of course, as expected, the Leeds Tab piece concerning Sanaz’s intervention is nothing more than a fine example of one-sided, one dimensional reporting. After all, the Leeds Tab is the Daily Mail of student media! Duncan Claber, the author of the Leeds Tab piece writes that Sanaz’s interruption made “several allegations about the University’s conduct” as if to infer that whatever Sanaz said during her intervention was a rambling pack of lies. Had Claber taken the time to glance at this blog, the extensive media coverage the Justice4Sanaz campaign has generated, and in particular, had read the Ceasefire expose where from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the campaign found numerous of instances were faculty at the School of Media and Communication used racist, xenophobic and ableist language to describe Sanaz, perhaps Claber wouldn’t make baseless and false accusations against the Justice4Sanaz campaign! If Claber was really serious about reporting a balanced perspective, he could have also read a piece outlining the rational why Sanaz decided to intervene at the Why is My Curriculum White event along with Mr Erizia’s statement at the abuse that both he and Sanaz were met with by Leeds University security. But alas, this is the Leeds Tab we are talking about- we had little expectation that the piece would be anything less than a farce.

Adding insult to injury, Claber maintains that “the event was a huge success for both Melissa and the student body and a great event to mark the end of Black History Month.” The violent abuse of a 5’3 foot WoC disabled activist by three white security guards at an event that was purposed by the Leeds University Union (LUU) as being a safe space during Black History Month is not a “huge success.”  What LUU, followed by the NUS Black Students’ Campaign showed was the abysmal and disgusting manner in which securitization and neoliberalism are being employed by mainstream anti-racist campaigner to only suppress grassroots anti-racist Black/PoC and WoC lead campaigns. If Ms Owusu, Education Officer of the Student Executive at LUU maintains that the Why is My Curriculum White event was to be a safe space, the why was there 4 white security guards from Leeds University Security on hand during the event? How can one have a safe space policy with such a high level of official university security present- the very same security that often oppresses and brutalizes Black, PoC, and WoC students and staff on campus?

As for the Why is My Curriculum White event furthering the ethos of neoliberalism under the banner of anti-racist activism, someone who attended the event had this to say:

The whole framing of the WIMCW event was bogus from the start -the claim that it’s just about reading lists and representation on the curriculum. It felt to me like it was set up by LUU in a way that is pandering to students as consumers, […] there was no meaningful political commitment in that event – it seemed part and parcel of neoliberal education. I think your intervention in the event showed it up for how hollow it was.”

Of course, as it was stated in the Tab Leeds piece, Ms Owusu claimed that she wants, “Leeds University to be number one in the world for a diverse curriculum.” As anti-racist academics, activists and campaigners, we need to question the motives of Black and PoC individuals who seek not to dismantle the harmful effects of neoliberalism that disproportionate effect working class Black, PoC and migrant communities, but rather are merrily injecting neoliberal language and policy in the service of both institution and the state.  After all “diversity” talk is problematic language itself.  As a recent piece questioning the politics of diversity published in Salon, Ellen Berrey indicates,

“Ultimately, I see diversity as a big lie. We need fewer cheerful logos and more effective action. Like an honest reckoning with racist housing policies that have robbed people of color of wealth.”

The fact that Ms Owusu and the NUS BSC leadership on hand at the event failed to include the Justice4Sanaz campaign into the discussion and a comprehensive action plan that Black, PoC and white students can use to eradicate white supremacy and institutional racism on campus, is all the more telling of how water-down their commitments are to said issues.

What Justice4Sanaz campaign saw at the Why is My Curriculum White Leeds Launch event was nothing more than cosmetic-feel-good-ally-theater. It was a event in which LUU student reps, mainstream student activism via the NUS and academics could all come together and perform a spectacle of anti-racist politics in order to pat themselves on the back in a smug, self-congratulatory manner without any actions or plans to support Black and PoC students working towards these very same issues.

Perhaps the only good thing about the Leeds Tab piece are the photographic evidence of the intense security presence followed by the brutal violence that Sanaz incurred by Leeds University Security which you can see below.

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Leeds University security guard standing and observing the Why is My Curriculum White talk. Photo courtesy of The Leeds Tab.

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Sanaz reading her prepared statement while being violently manhandled by three white security guards at an event to question white supremacy in education. Photo courtesy of The Leeds Tab.

The Justice4Sanaz campaign filed a letter of complaint to LUU  on the 4th November 2015. We expect to get a response from the LUU within 15 days.  We have already heard that the student unions of King’s College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies are also sending letters of concern to LUU about the violent treatment that Sanaz Raji sustained at the Why is My Curriculum White event. We will be keeping everyone informed as to what response LUU gives regarding our complaint.

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About justice4sanaz

For 3 years, Sanaz Raji, a non-EU international student from the United States, has waged a fearless and brave fight against institutional aggression, bullying, and racism from the School of Media and Communication (formerly the Institution of Communications Studies) University of Leeds. The School of Media and Communication took away Sanaz's scholarship in August 2011, only 2 weeks before the start of her third year into her PhD studies. The School of Media and Communication breached their own procedures and rules concerning evaluating student progress. By taking away Sanaz's scholarship, the School of Media and Communication prevented her from continuing her studies in addition to having a decent standard of living with food and shelter that all students expect as a human right. In waging her battle for equal rights for non-EU international students, Sanaz was evicted from her university accommodation in May 2014, threatened with an ASBO (anti-social behavior order) and now fighting against deportation. All non-EU international students should have the right to challenge their universities for their failings without the threat of harassment or deportation. Justice4Sanaz is a movement to redress the failure of the student movement to discuss the myriad of ways that non-EU students, especially those who are people of color, are silenced, bullied and threatened within the neoliberal British university system.
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