Thursday 22 February 2018

Student who burned effigy of Obama says sorry

THE president of a students' association which burned an effigy of Barack Obama has apologised for the group`s actions.

A figure of the US president was set alight by members of the University of St Andrews Conservative and Unionist Association and is understood to have happened during a meeting at the weekend.

Matthew Marshall, president of the association, said it was "a stupid thing to do".

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "President Obama is an important ally to the British Government. It was a stupid thing to do and we apologise for any offence caused."

The university said it was aware of the reports, was "seeking clarification" and has asked to meet the society's president to discuss "understandable concerns".

John Park, Labour MSP, whose constituency includes the university, said: "This is gravely offensive and way beyond a student prank. Thousands of young people yearn for the chance to study at such a prestigious institution and they will be amazed to see that those who have been given that opportunity behave like this.

"These people need to spend some time in the real world. Burning an effigy of anyone is offensive, let alone the first black president of the United States. The overtones are deeply unpleasant.

"I hope the Prime Minister, Ruth Davidson and the Conservative Party take action against their activists. It is simply unacceptable."

A spokesman for the university said: "We are aware of reports of this incident and have asked to meet the society president to discuss the very understandable concerns which these reports have raised. Until that meeting has taken place it would be inappropriate to make further comment."

St Andrews Students' Union said those who took part in the effigy burning "don't represent St Andrews students".

A statement from the Student Representative Council said: "As students we believe in political debate, with engaging those who disagree with us and that all students at St Andrews have a valid opinion to contribute.

"While it does not violate any laws, we believe that the burning of political or public figures in effigy can be an act of hate, stifles productive engagement and can be offensive.

"We believe that St Andrews students should hold ourselves to a higher standard and actively demonstrate that we are ready to engage with and respect the opinions of others."

Sam Fowles, director of representation at the union, said: "I do not believe this was a racist act but I don't believe that makes it any less disgusting. Student representatives have shown that the vast majority of St Andrews students are much better than this sort of puerile and offensive behaviour."

Press Association

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