CW: antisemitism, racism, and transphobia
Rashmi Samant, Linacre College, the Student Union’s President-Elect, has sent an apology to JCR and MCR Presidents and SU Campaign leaders. The apology comes after both the Oxford SU CRAE—Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality—and the Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign called for her immediate resignation and an apology to groups affected by her comments.
In spite of JCRs voting to support any motions of no confidence brought to Student Council, The Flete previously reported on the fact that Student Council will not be accepting any until 7th Week. This is due to interpretation of the Student Union’s governing documents. It is therefore up to Ms Samant’s discretion whether she will resign and vacate her office, until any process of impeachment has a chance to begin in the penultimate week of term. Ms Samant’s apology today suggests that she does not plan to do so.
The apology ends: “I come to you seeking forgiveness for my mistakes and acceptance for my willingness to learn from them […] The chance to correct our mistakes and grow beyond limitations are the best gifts an individual may attain from fellow human beings. My belief in this community leaves me hopeful of one and I look forward to be a part of a better world.”
The President-Elect, who won her election with the Student Union’s highest ever turnout, has come under scrutiny for historic social media posts and comments made while campaigning. The posts include a 2017 Instagram caption punning on the word “Holocaust”, attached to an image of Samant posing at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, and another Instagram post from 2019 taken in Malaysia with a caption many have perceived to be racist. Ms Samant has also been accused of fuelling a transphobic distinction between cis women and trans women, with an Instagram caption that read “women, transwomen and men”.
The apology does state that Ms Samant plans to reach out to any communities affected by her actions in the coming days. Jin-Gyu Chang, Keble College, founder of Melanin., had already published a post to social media condemning Ms Samant’s perpetuation of microaggressions against minority groups.
In a statement to The Flete, Chang said: “I agree with the SU’s decision to allow Ms Samant to respond to the accusations before articles of impeachment are accepted. At this stage impeachment or no confidence motions will only undermine any opportunities that she may have to heal alongside the communities that she’s damaged. I hope that she will either resign of her own volition or prove to us that we can trust her without a shadow of doubt before her term is set to begin. I trust that she is in the end, a good person, albeit misguided. However, the hurt that she has inflicted upon multiple communities is very much real cannot be ignored. It is imperative that she addresses them with humility and in their entirety, no matter what consequences she may face.”
One of the JCR Presidents who received Ms Samant’s apology told The Flete: “I say this with caution and an awareness that English may not be Rashmi’s first language, which may affect writing style and language choices, but the language of the letter and the choice of who to send it to make it abundantly clear to me – this apology is not for her actions, it is for being called out on them. JCRs were already tempted to disaffiliate from the Oxford SU, so perhaps this is the push they need.”
Rashmi Samant has approved the use of excerpts from her apology.