Students and university respond to Clinton controversy

The King’s College London Intersectional Feminist Society has expressed its outrage and disappointment over KCL’s decision to host Hillary Clinton at a Global Institute for Women’s Leadership event.

On the 13th November, KCL hosted an event that featured the former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and the former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard at the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.

The open letter condemned KCL’s choice to give Hillary Clinton a platform, and criticised many of the former candidate’s previous actions, including calling black children “super predators” in the 1990s, and her support for the Iraq War, and her “push for aggressive and violent military intervention in Syria.” The letter has so far been signed by 47 members of the society, including by members of the Decolonise KCL, KCL LGBT+ and Action KCL Action Palestine societies.

Clinton appeared at an event which marked the launch of a new podcast series called “World Questions.” The former Democratic Party candidate spoke about women’s rights, Trump’s impeachment, and other topics. The open letter from the Intersectional Feminist Society criticised KCL’s decision not to include a wider range of speakers for its events, like women and non-binary people of colour, or economically marginalised people, especially when the event aims to address “World Questions.”

Wasted money

The letter suggested that the university may have wasted students’ money on hiring Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s speaking fees typically exceed £100,000.

In an email to London Student, Dr Rosie Campbell, Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership said “universities typically do not pay” speakers that visit educational institutions. But she neither confirmed nor denied that KCL had paid Clinton any fees. Dr Campbell stood by KCL’s decision to host the former Democratic candidate, and said that “we were incredibly proud to host an individual who has had a pivotal impact on women’s ability to raise their voices.”

Earlier this year, KCL also hosted Queen Elizabeth, and indeed paid over £16,000 for this visit. At this visit, KCL barred 13 students and one staff member from entering university buildings by having their university cards deactivated. These students included those who were aligned with Action Palestine, Justice for Cleaners, and the Climate Strike. Their names were passed onto the Met Police; King’s later admitted it had violated GDPR regulations.

Students weigh in

The KCL LGBT+ Society signed the letter. Speaking to London Student, Jamie Bohanna, President of the KCL LGBT+ Society, said that the Society stands by the letter “fully.” Bohanna said that “KCL LGBT+ Society has at its heart inclusivity, diversity, solidarity, and intersectionality, and Mrs Clinton, and King’s itself, has shown and proven time and time again to not share said sentiment.”

The Decolonise KCL Society also criticised Clinton’s actions, and told London Student that “Clinton has consistently perpetuated racist policies and ideas.” It said that “King’s is creating a public image of itself that comes at the expense of marginalised communities around the world, and this is nothing but reflective of its own approach to marginalised students on campus.

The society commented called on Professor Ed Byrne, Principal and President at King’s, and his team to “reflect on their actions” which perpetuate “such systems of violence” at the university.

The Russell Group university has been embroiled in controversy throughout the year. Only this week, an ex-Israeli soldier who visited KCL was met with protests.

The open letter is supported by the KCL Action Palestine, which said it “find[s] it difficult to reconcile [Clinton’s] supposed empowerment of women whilst opposing the freedom of Palestinian women through her support of Israel.” The society said that the Clinton’s presence at the event will have a negative effect on the university’s reputation and will “contradict King’s Vision 2029.”

The “World Questions” event was live-streamed via the King’s College YouTube channel.

Photo credit: Flickr/Hillary for America (CC BY NC SA 2.0)


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