Student union probes new evidence on president-elect pictured in camp uniform

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Student union probes new evidence on president-elect pictured in camp uniform

The election result has been suspended while a disciplinary procedure runs its course

A student union is investigating new evidence against its president-elect who expressed deep regret after pictures emerged of him wearing a Nazi concentration camp uniform to a party.

Edge Hill University’s student union launched fresh disciplinary action against its president-elect Sam Farrell, on Tuesday afternoon after receiving further evidence this week.

The election result has been suspended while a disciplinary procedure runs its course, Edge Hill Students’ Union said on Tuesday. The investigation will examine both existing and new evidence.

The decision follows public outcry, including from Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, after undated pictures emerged of Farrell wearing a bald cap and striped pyjamas with a number tag to a gathering following the election result.

In one group shot, a crowd surrounds him, as he is shown lying on his side across a table. The pictures were shared with the accompanying caption: “In dire need of a shower after last night’s social #gassed”.

A screenshot of a Facebook post sent from Farrell’s account last year, circulated by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), claimed the Holocaust had “better headliners” than Reading and Leeds Festivals.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) is to deliver antisemitism awareness training for student officers and staff over the summer. A spokesperson said on Tuesday it was “pleased” by the student union’s decision to suspend the election result and open a new investigation.

The UJS spokesperson accused Farrell of being “unfit” for the role of president, alleging he published “antisemitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic, sexist and ableist” material on social media.

In a statement to Jewish News, the 20 year-old student said on Wednesday: “Although I remain disgusted and ashamed by my actions, I do not believe my past mistakes will hinder my ability to bring positive change to the wider student body. So to all those who have rightfully criticised my actions, I ask not for forgiveness, but for the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and allow me the chance to right the wrongs I have committed.

“Unfortunately my past actions are something I can never take back and I hope that my sincere apology can be enough to be offered a second chance. Given that chance, I will work tirelessly to better myself and create positive change for all students across the university.”

A spokesperson for the university said: “Views that appear to have been expressed by the president-elect of the Students’ Union have been brought to the attention of university leaders.  These views are deeply abhorrent and, as we understand, are subject to a further disciplinary inquiry by the Students’ Union.

“While the Students’ Union is a wholly independent organisation, responsible for the election and appointment of its officers, the University will not tolerate behaviour of this kind and will not hesitate to use its own procedures if necessary.”    

Edge Hill Students’ Union initially said last week it could not investigate Farrell. “Complaints can only be made against a candidate’s behaviour during the time that they are a candidate in the election”, read a statement released last Friday.

A complaint was made in November last year, and Farrell “fully co-operated and apologised in writing for the upset his behaviour had caused and reiterated that it was not his intention to cause offence”, the statement said.

In a statement to Jewish News on Monday, Farrell said he was “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,” he said.

He added: “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 student vowed to “educate” himself and “take on board the concerns that have been raised” as he pledged to undertake “any training required” to mend relations.

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