A Welcome Week social of two anti-elitism societies was interrupted by a group of unidentified individuals and had to be shut down after one of the hosts of the meeting received a threatening message.
The ‘93% Club Edinburgh’ was set up earlier this year to promote access and opportunity for state-educated students at the University of Edinburgh, who account for only 65 per cent of the intake, despite being 93 per cent of the UK population.
The Club’s aim is to offer professional advice and opportunities, as well as to establish a platform for state-educated students to share their experiences, opinions, concerns, and useful resources.
The meeting was hosted on Zoom and the details to join it were shared publicly on the group’s Facebook page.
After a couple of minutes of the committee introducing themselves, the interruptions started.
Periodically, someone participating in the session turned their audio on and shouted that they “have a massive penis” or played an explicit song, with their camera turned off, before leaving the meeting.
The interruptions seemed to be well planned, timed, and coordinated.
One of the Tackling Elitism committee members then received a threatening private message, and the hosts decided to end the meeting immediately after, for everyone’s safety.
Speaking to The Student, The 93% Club founder Sheela Steele, who was present on the call, states, “We still don’t know what was said [in the message], because [the person who received it] doesn’t feel comfortable saying, but what I know is that they were very, very, very scared.
“They were very shaken up and then we had a call afterwards with 93% and Tackling Elitism privately to discuss what we were going to do, and they couldn’t even come to that call.”
In a joint response to the incident on social media, The 93% Club and Tackling Elitism said, “We are so sorry that those who had good intentions did not get to hear what we have in store for you: we really hope you aren’t put off by this event.”
Steele says that she feels “awful for the freshers who were maybe worried about Edinburgh’s reputation and the elitism here, who thought that [this meeting] is a safe space, and in that space they were like ‘Oh my god, it’s everywhere in Edinburgh’.”
When asked about their next steps, Steele explains that they intend to discuss what happened with the Edinburgh University Students’ Association.
They wish to run the event again on a safer platform which does not allow this kind of anonymity.
This is not the first time The 93% Club has encountered opposition.
An Instagram post they made earlier this year, which shows statistics of how state-educated people are underrepresented in high-income and high-profile jobs, has over 200 comments.
Examples of these comments include “Probably because all the chavs that don’t care about their education don’t go to private schools,” and “If you really want to become a doctor or whatever from states school, work your ass off.”
Steele states that, in the end, this incident has given them motivation to keep going.
She adds: “Sometimes we, The 93% Club, feel like this is such a non-controversial thing. Why would we need to have a group about the fact that people with different educational backgrounds should have the same opportunities?
“And yet, this [event] has really shown us: actually, yes, this is definitely needed.”
Image: John Allan via geograph.org.uk