Swanson: Learning From What Happened at Nottingham Trent University

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By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

On March 7, Nottingham Trent University student Rufaro Chisango tweeted a video of people chanting racist remarks outside the door of her dorm. The tweet was spread worldwide and received support from friends, student leaders and members of Parliament. Shortly after, police detained two men, but released them on March 9. So, what can students and universities across the globe learn from this incident that sets it apart from other racist incidents on campuses?

First, we should examine the actions of the victim. Chisango heard the chanting, recorded a video where the chanting is clearly audible, posted it to Twitter, then sent a written statement about it to the university. Chisango did not leave her dorm out of fear of those in the hallways would do if she did. All of these were the right thing to do, and I hold her in high respect for handling the situation as well as she did. Getting evidence the incident actually happened was an incredibly smart decision. In a climate where universities have to go into every reported incident like this wondering whether or not it was a hoax, removing that from the conversation entirely and allowing the police to go in and find out who did this wasn’t something she necessarily had to do, but it benefited everyone greatly that she did.

She also took her own personal safety into consideration while doing this. We often see people going to extreme lengths to get video footage, but for her to resist the urge to just go out there and get their faces on camera shows a great amount of restraint. Most importantly, she wrote a statement to the university. She took the time to go through the proper channels to report what had happened to give the university a chance to look into it themselves. If they tried to cover it up like a remarkable amount of schools do when something like this is reported, the world would have gotten on the university’s case. By tweeting the video the night she sent the report, she guaranteed herself a response.

The community was incredibly supportive of Chisango when she tweeted the video. Students on campus who didn’t know Chisango personally asked if she was okay and showed their sorrow that something like this could ever happen to one of their fellow students on their campus. Prime Ministers in parliament tweeted out to her showing their support. All of these mentioned tweeters walked her through two more important steps which I’m hoping Chisango did, which was to contact campus police if she felt her safety was at risk and to contact her local member of parliament so the government was aware that this happened.

As for the university and the police, things could have gone a better. It’s good the university didn’t go out of its way to try and cover up the fact that the event happened. However, the response time was a little slower than what it should have been. Police promptly detained and questioned two men who they felt were connected to the incident. However, they shortly after released them, pending further questioning.

I have nothing but respect for Chisango and all of the people who reached out to her that night. They all handled this touchy situation in the best way they could have. As for whether or not this will get any results, it’s still too soon to tell. The two men who the police questioned have not been charged with anything yet, and there has been no news of any new suspects. We can only hope the university and the police can pick up the slack and carry it home. What happened at Nottingham Trent University was appalling, but it has allowed the world to see the proper way to handle a situation like this on campus. Here’s to hoping justice is achieved this way.

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@TheChrony