A graduate of University Campus Suffolk has claimed that he ended up with a lower degree classification than he was expecting because the atmosphere at the institution had become “unhealthy for a black student to work in”.
In March, the painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling participated in a question and answer session at the institution with David Baldry, senior lecturer in fine art at UCS.
During the course of their discussion, Ms Hambling declared that the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave, about slavery in 19th-century America, was “frightfully boring”.
“In the end I didn’t care about the fucking slave…Anyway, slaves would be very handy. I wouldn’t mind a few,” the Daily Mail reported her as saying.
After the event, mature student Jason Haye created a protest video that used excerpts from Ms Hambling’s comments to show what it felt like for him to have been “the only black person in the room” at the time.
After he uploaded the footage to YouTube, Mr Haye was asked by the university to remove it on the grounds that it featured material commissioned for “UCS purposes”.
Mr Haye then learned that a work by Ms Hambling had been sold for £650 at a UCS fundraising auction. He campaigned to have the money donated to charity, believing this to be the most “ethical choice” under the circumstances.
However, in an email to Mr Haye, UCS said that “for legal reasons” the money had to be used for the purpose for which it was raised.
Mr Haye, who has now graduated with a 2:2 in fine art, said that the incident had “shattered my university experience on a personal level” and that he believed he would have gained at least a 2:1 “if the atmosphere of my environment hadn’t become so unhealthy for a black student to work in”.
Richard Lister, provost and chief executive of UCS, said that the institution had “worked closely” with the students’ union to deal with the issues raised by Mr Haye.
“Very recently Jason has instituted a formal complaint and appeal, which we will be investigating through our normal procedures. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further until the matter has been resolved through the formal processes,” Mr Lister added.