KCL Feminist Society claims SU ‘no longer fulfilling its purpose’ after elections hit with sexual harassment allegations
The King’s College London Intersectional Feminist Society has condemned the KCL student union and questioned its role amid claims of sexual harassment during this month’s spring elections.
In an open letter to the KCL union, the society said that four students “participated in and endorsed the harassment and intimidation of women”.
The list named Shaswat Jain, the new president-elect, along with Furqan Khan, vice president-elect (welfare & community), Gurbaaz Gill, vice president-elect (education) and Nakul Patwa, vice president-elect (activities & development).
In the letter, published on the 8th March, the night of the elections, the society complained the student union “is no longer fulfilling its purpose”. Rather than supporting the alleged victims, it said, the union “has chosen to instead become complicit in this behaviour by refusing to the condemn it [the harassment].”
The society also claimed that the “instructional sexism and misogyny” at the university “manifested itself in exploitative ways during the recent election.” By allegedly ignoring their concerns, the society said the union have “become apologists for the harassment, assault and dismissal of women.”
Reports have since emerged that the union has put a motion to their Governance and Policy Committee regarding a review to ensure all procedures were followed.
Speaking to London Student, KCL student Claudia Watts, who also ran for union president, said that it has “become a norm at King’s during election time to have people take away your phones and be aggressive about their campaigns.”
Ms Watts admitted she is saddened that such candidates “will be the face of this University” and that her “SU has stood by and allowed this to happen and ignored the complaints of many”. She added that she wants “people’s complaints to be addressed, and for the system to aid those who wish to fairly represent students.”
This view was echoed by Carrie Toptan, another student who ran to be president. She said: “it’s horrible to think that these people are the face of the university” and that she was not “comfortable with those people representing the King’s College Student Union”.
The union promoted the recent election using its #Sheshouldrun campaign, intended to support female candidates. Following the sexual harassment allegations, the Intersectional Feminist Society said this was “an insult to women” as the union was simultaneously offering “support [for] male students who cultivate environments of fear and intimidation on campus” so that “women cannot even safely exercise their right to vote.”
A protest took place on the evening of election, which coincided with International Women’s Day, to pressure the union into launching an investigation into the allegations. Due to this disruption, the union decided to release the results online.
Three days later there was a separate protest called ‘Rally against harassment of WOMEN in KCLSU elections’. This saw just over 20 students demonstrate outside the union offices at Bush House. Protestors held up signs which included statements such as “Election Fraud” and “not our KCLSU”.
Following the open letter, the union gave a statement saying they were “vehemently opposed to harassment and discrimination of any kind” and that it was their “duty to hold free and fair elections.” They pointed out that an external returning officer had monitored the election to help “preserve the sanctity of the democratic process.”
All four candidates facing allegations stated that they agreed with the statement given out by the union. President-elect Shaswat Jain said: “University should be safe for its students and we as a student body need to stand against any form of harassment.” He added that he “truly respect[s] and support[s] our investigation procedures” and that he hopes the matter is fairly investigated and resolved.
This view was repeated by Furqan Khan, vice president-elect (welfare & community), who told London Student that “[h]arrasment, sexual or otherwise, has no place in society and being responsible individuals, we must work to eradicate it”. He continued: “King’s College London is a place where our student community should feel safe”. Nakul Patwa, vice president-elect (activities), agreed, and said he has “faith in the investigation procedures and … believe[s] that any outcome provided in the future will be after following all the due processes required to solve the matter”.
Gurbaaz Gill, vice president-elect (education), said he was “strongly against any form of harassment on campus” and that “university is a place of education and every single student must be free from intimidation or harassment of any kind.” He concurred with the other candidates facing allegations, saying he has “faith in the investigation process” and that the investigation “will take all necessary steps to get to the core of it all and deliver justice.”