University apologises for ‘racist and colonialist’ posters

University apologises for ‘racist and colonialist’ posters calling for students to ‘explore new worlds’ with image of white woman meeting black children

  • The University of Wolverhampton has withdrawn a ‘racist’ advertising campaign
  • Critics claimed the billboard campaign promoted the ‘great white saviour’ trope
  • Others suggested the poster, featuring a young woman, was neo-colonialist

A university has apologised and axed a poster campaign featuring a young white woman meeting black children – after outraged academics branded it racist.

The University of Wolverhampton erected the posters on five billboards to promote the Bsc (Hons) Public Health Course for students going through clearing.

It features a picture of a young women in a white vest top with a messy bun hairdo facing hundreds of black children wearing mint-green school uniforms.

The University of Wolverhampton has been slammed over its use of this image to advertise the college as it encourages a range of negative stereotypes such as ‘the great white saviour’

The college, pictured, commissioned the billboards to advertise their courses to students

Alongside the image, the slogan claimed: ‘If you want to explore new worlds. Start here.’

But just days after it was launched, university officials were forced to scrap the campaign after a furious backlash on social media.

Nicole Andrews, 33, a health and social care lecturer at Newman University in Birmingham, posted a snap of the poster on Twitter and it quickly went viral.

She said: ‘There’s strands of colonialism, patriotism, racism, gender issues. It’s a very difficult picture. I was pleased when it was taken down.’

Dr Helen Dexter, Associate Professor of International Politics at Leicester University, tweeted: ‘This image is so offensive I am amazed anyone at The University of Wolverhampton thought it was appropriate. Please withdraw it immediately.’

However, many lecturers branded the advertisement as ‘offensive’ and should be removed

Fellow lecturers from around the world also voiced their fury at the poster.

Dr Lisa Ann Richey, professor of international development at Denmark’s Roskilde University, tweeted: ‘Voluntourism is not something we should claim is educational.

‘In addition to the obvious neocolonialism of this ad, there is also the visual signage indicating that anyone can “explore new worlds” beginning at the lower back of a young, thin, white woman. Nothing good here.’

The poster, which was installed at five sites across Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry, was also condemned by members of the university’s own staff and students.

University blogger The Plashing Vole, wrote: ‘Oh dear: the old ‘white saviour’ trope in which kindly white individuals solve the problems of grateful black people.’

One member of staff said: ‘It’s an emotive issue and I think you have to go on your initial gut instinct when you see it.

‘Personally, when I saw it I cringed. It opens the university up to all sorts of accusations about racism and stereotypes.

‘Personally, it struck a patronising tone which is a bit of an own goal for us.’

Second year economics student Glenn Marshal, 21, said: ‘It’s just an awful poster and screams racism to me and I’m not surprised it’s stoked up such a reaction.

‘Sadly, so-called patriots will be using it to slag off academics and brand them ‘snowflakes’ for moaning but I think when intelligent people take offensive, there is actually something in what they are saying.’

But other social media users have branded the row ‘a storm in the teacup’, and slammed the academics for taking offense.

Head of marketing Raman Sarpal said the billboard campaign has been withdrawn as a result of the backlash 

Cockney Rick said: ‘I really don’t see the problem with the poster. It’s a white woman standing in front of a group of black kids, so what?

‘This is the 21st century and all the racism and other stuff has been put away. I have found that it’s always, and I really do mean always, it’s the white population that complain about this sort of thing, not the black population.

‘It’s a crazy world we live in.’

PJW Holland said: ‘Proof of the blind bigotry that is our ‘academia’.

‘To me the message is clear. It shows a white person reaching out to explore the world of others who differ ethnically to her.’

Johno Thomo tweeted: ‘No doubt the boffins have too much time of their hands with their 3 month holidays and fancy a whinge. If it was a black girl staring at white kids no one would bat an eyelid. £storminateacup.’

The university said it never intended to offend anyone with the billboards.

Head of marketing Raman Sarpal said: ‘Every year the university runs numerous creative campaigns across various channels around the UK.

‘Following careful consideration the decision was taken to withdraw this particular advert, which is part of a wider campaign, and we are in the process of removing the image.

‘It was never the intention to cause any offence, but we take feedback like this seriously. The university prides itself on having a diverse student body, and of being inclusive.’

Tweeting an apology to Dr Dexter after she branded it ‘offensive’, the university said: ‘We take feedback like this very seriously.

‘Following careful consideration the decision has been taken to withdraw the advert. It was never the intention to cause any offence. We appreciate you raising this with us.’ 

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