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Cambridge college apologises for targeting Chinese students over mess in toilets

‘It is deeply wrong to make negative assumptions about any one group or community’


A University of Cambridge college has apologised after signs about keeping toilets clean were displayed in Mandarin only.

The signs were put up after cleaning staff at Homerton noticed a pattern of toilets being left a mess after a specific conference group.

While the college claimed in its apology “there was no intention to cause offence”, the incident has sparked backlash amongst students who understood the action to be a target on a specific ethnic group.

On Wednesday 31st January, the Homerton Principal, Lord Wooley, sent an email to students acknowledging that “the perceived or deliberate targeting of any community in this way is offensive and discriminatory,” with a specific apology made “to all students, and in particular students of Chinese descent, for what occurred.”

Whilst the email does not specify signs where the signs were displayed or what they were about, a source revealed to The Cambridge Tab that they were placed in the toilets after cleaning staff noticed a pattern of the bathroom being left in a mess after a specific Chinese conference group had been attending the college.

Moving forward from the incident, Homerton, which describes itself as “a modern Cambridge College for a changing world”, claims that “we as a college can always learn to do things better”, paying tribute to its “rich diversity” that “helps all our students to belong, thrive and excel academically.”

After meeting with Chinese students, alongside senior staff and the MCR (the mature student union for Homerton) that supported the students, the Principal has instructed the new Head of Comms to begin a process of improved communication with students.

The email from Lord Woolley reads in full: “It has come to my attention that our staff have communicated – on public notices – problems arising around exits and in public conveniences in Chinese language only.

“Whilst I accept that there is intention to cause offence, the perceived or deliberate targeting of any community in this way is offensive and discriminatory. To be absolutely clear it is deeply wrong to make negative assumptions about any one group or community.

“As Principal of Homerton College, which rightly prides itself as being values driven, I want to give an unequivocal apology to all student and in particular student of Chinese descent, for what occurred.

“I have instructed my team, when they do sent out messaged to either send them out in Just English or seven languages. Furthermore, we are reviewing our protocol when communicating with students.

“I also want to thank the Chinese students who I met, along with senior staff and the MCR team that supported the students.

“I am keen to see mechanisms that ensure the best possible communication with all Homerton students. I have instructed our new head of Comms, Lester Holloway, to begin that process.

“I am clear that we as a college can always learn to do things better, and when mistakes are made we’ll acknowledge it and learn from it.

“We also want to be a college that wonderfully celebrates our rich diversity for a number of reasons, not least, because we believe it helps all our students to belong, thrive and excel academically.”

Homerton is one of the 31 University of Cambridge colleges and has students ranging from undergraduate to PhD.

Lord Woolley commented on behalf of Homerton College directly to The Cambridge Tab: “I apologise unreservedly to all students, and in particular students of Chinese descent, for the offence caused. I will be introducing new protocols to ensure this does not happen again.