By Jennifer Constable, Editor-in-Chief (@Peculiar_Jenny)
President of the University of Strathclyde Students’ Association (USSA), Raj Brighton, claims to have been the recipient of racial hate mail, harassment and death threats since taking up his role as President in 2016.
Brighton, a Malaysian born, disabled student, has publicly spoken out about the abuse he’s received during his time as USSA President, revealing that he has been subject to vicious, ongoing threats and racial abuse; accusing Brighton of terrorist attacks, and claiming he should quit his job and “go back to (his) home country.”
Writing passionately about his experiences in an online Facebook status, Brighton expressed that “The transition from diversity officer to President somehow made people uncomfortable. Here I was – a non-white person, from Malaysia, leading a student union.”
Speaking to the Huffington Post about the severity of the threats, Brighton said, “I only have one arm and people say that I deserved to lose my arm.”
Brighton made the point that his distressing encounters have highlighted the dangers that many minority students still face, both in the University of Strathclyde and other Scottish universities.
Using his social media platform, Brighton wrote, “Without me being the type of person I am, the union and the University would have never known the extent of the problem that they have – the level of denial is too great.”
When asked about the University’s response to the attacks, Brighton told The Strathclyde Telegraph, “The University has been amazing. We are launching a campaign together with Students societies to tackle the five hate crimes and sexual harassment.”
The University of Strathclyde plans to create a stronger support system and increase the visibility of their “zero tolerance” policy towards hate crime and promoting the services they offer. It is hoped that these actions encourage other students to speak out about their experiences, and not stay silent.
Outraged at his colleague’s treatment, Liam McCabe, Vice President of Volunteering and Development at USSA told the Telegraph “Raj is an incredibly hard working President, putting a lot of himself into this job and for that he should be rewarded, not subjected to hate speech and threats.
“Those behind these attacks are cowards, utilising anonymity to protect themselves from the consequences of their bigotry” continued McCabe. “Our colleagues on the executive committee, everyone in The Union, and the whole student community stand with him.”
Refusing to let the threats reign in his energy and drive, Brighton plans to continue in his role as President, believing that his work has already helped students in similar situations get the help they need, allowing them to feel safe and continue with their studies.
“Students need to know that their Union is here for them”, Brighton told the Telegraph, “we need to use all channels to make sure that these issues are highlighted in order to better represent the issues students face.”