Student who objected to slave auction told to retract comments

Slave auction poster at University of Bedfordshire
Slave auction poster at University of Bedfordshire

A student who complained about a slave auction being held by the University of Bedfordshire Psychology Society was told to remove her comments from the internet as the society did not want bad publicity.

The slave auction is being held this Friday, auctioning off students and staff ‘to make them do what you desire’.

Second year student Nelly Estrela wrote to the Psychology Society president voicing her concerns and was told there was no problem as the Student Union had approved the event.

Nelly said: “This is disgusting. This trivialises slavery and makes a mockery of ongoing suffering implicated by racial prejudice and discrimination. These people can attend the event, pretend to be ‘slaves’ and go home and forget all about it, meanwhile, freed slaves were segregated from public places, such as schools and parks, forced into ‘ghettos’ and forced into poverty.

“For people to overlook this and to palm it off as ‘just a joke’ is inexcusable. Luton is supposedly a place of great diversity, but the things I’m seeing greatly contradict that.”

Nelly, a broadcast journalism student, said her classmates were also offended by the event.

A Psychology Society member wrote to Nelly from the society’s Facebook account and said: “As I’m sure you are aware nothing can be advertised or agreed until written permission from the university and the SU has been given. I appreciate your concerns however the SU activities president has passed this event. The event is about making your lecturer make a fool of themselves so don’t be alarmed.”

However a Student Union spokesperson said this was not correct and the university had not given permission for the event.

The society member asked Nelly to take down any comments she had written on the internet, saying “As my society is the most successful and largest at the entire University of Beds and we do not want bad publicity. Feel free to attend the event as the poster indicates all students are welcome.”

A Beds Student Union spokesperson said: “Firstly we would like to apologise for any offence caused by the title of the slave auction event. The Psychology Society’s intention was to raise money for charity but in their haste the name of the event was misjudged. In hindsight we recognise that this could be offensive to our diverse student body.

“With regard to offended students being asked to retract their comments this was a request from one student to another. Beds SU encourages inclusivity and debate and we always welcome comment and feedback from our members, the students. We would welcome any students who are concerned about this matter to contact us so that we can ensure that this type of incident will not happen again.”

The event has now been cancelled.

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