The Students' Union at Edge Hill University has suspended the result of its recent elections after the president elect dressed as a Holocaust concentration camp victim to a party and joked of being ‘gassed’.
Sam Farrelll was elected President of the Union on March 18 and was due to take up his position in July.
At a social event last October he dressed up in striped pajamas with a number attached, similar to what Jews wore in German concentration camps during WWII. Afterwards, he posted pictures of himself at the event on social media, along with the caption: “In dire need of a shower after last night's social #gassed”.
In February of last year, he posted a message with a poster advertising the Reading Festival, saying “pretty sure the Holocaust had better headliners”.
The Students’ Union(SU), which allowed him to stand in the election despite complaints, said it had previously disciplined Farrell. However, it was now suspending the election result while disciplinary action is taken, as new information and evidence had come to light.
After being contacted by the Union of Jewish Students, the SU also agreed to participate in antisemitism training for new officers and staff.
In a statement the Union said: “We are pleased to confirm that Edge Hill Students’ Union has been in conversation with the Union of Jewish Students and will be organising antisemitism training as part of our summer induction programme for new student officers and the wider staff team. We would like to thank the Union of Jewish Students for reaching out to us, and for their help so far in facilitating this training.
”We do not underestimate the severity of this situation and the harm that the SU President-elect’s actions have caused. As such, regardless of the outcome of any disciplinary action we will ensure that all student officers are given appropriate training which, as mentioned above, we are already in the process of organising. Should the student in question remain in position, we will ensure that they are made to come to terms with their behaviour and realise what it means to act as a public servant. We will also ensure that the President-elect does all they can through actions, as well as words, to win back the trust of students who have been affected by his actions.”
An Edge Hill graduate, who does not want to be named, has contacted the Champion to say he is currently working with a number of concerned students regarding the outcome of Edge Hill Students' Union's recent election.
He said that a Jewish student that had complained to the SU to try and stop Farrell taking part in the elections. After he won the vote, she was said to be “devastated”, adding: “I just don’t feel safe on campus anymore and definitely would not feel comfortable speaking to the SU if I have an issue. I don’t understand how he is being allowed to lead a union which is supposed to represent all students.”
Posting on the student union website, Sam Farrell said. “I am deeply sorry for the hurt and pain caused by posts on my social media accounts. It was never my intention to deliberately offend or to make any student feel unsafe at Edge Hill campus, and it causes me great pain to think that I would make someone feel excluded from their university or Students’ Union.
”Despite what my past posts may suggest, I do understand the severity of making light of events from history, especially when that history plays a fundamental role in reminding us of the needless persecution of others.
“I only hope I can convey how genuine I am when I say that I now realise how naïve and ignorant my past behaviour was. It was wrong, it will not happen again, and it should not have happened in the first place.”
The Auschwitz Museum said that the Jew who was marked with number 38451, which Farrell wore, belonged to Hersch Frydman who perished at Auschwitz on 19 August 1942 at the age of 28. “Words can hurt people,” the museum said, “’In dire need of a shower after last night's social #gassed' are simply disgusting.”