On 11th June, during the last night of fun at the University of Essex, one of the biggest scandals of racial profiling took place.
By Anita Gillone and Carolina Gomes
Layomi Coker, a 21-year-old girl from Nigeria and a final year BA Drama at the University of Essex wanted to enjoy her last chance to party with her friends as a college student. Sadly, her night didn’t turn out the way she wanted, as she was racially profiled by the security guards right after entering the club.
After the SU Street Fest day, a University organised event, Layomi decided to go, like thousands of other students, to the after-party at Sub Zero, the University club.
She was let in regularly by the staff at the entrance, where they scanned her term pass as usual, but as soon as she was about to enter the toilet with her friend, Layomi was stopped by two security guards (one female and one male, both white) hired by the University. The two individuals had assumed she had no ticket and proceeded to escort her out.
Apparently, the security had been informed that a black girl with braids had run into the club without a ticket. With this, and only this information, they proceed to chase the first girl that fitted this vague description. Unfortunately, it was Layomi.
She was told that she needed to leave, as she didn’t have the right to be inside. At the first moment, Layomi tried to explain herself calmly, saying that she did pass the checks as normally and had her ticket scanned, but they didn’t seem to be concerned. All of this occurred in the female bathroom, while other students were coming in and out.
Layomi asked them to check the CCTV to confirm her part of the story, but she was deemed aggressive by the security, who denied her request multiple times.
She insisted on speaking with a superior, as she felt racially profiled, and after more than an hour, they finally confirmed that it wasn’t in fact Layomi who entered without a ticket.
At this point, Layomi’s night was ruined, but she stayed as it was her last opportunity to have fun and dance with her friends, and also because it was a longer night at the club than usual. “I needed to stay until 6am because I wanted the free shirt at the end”, Layomi said.
The next morning, still furious about this incident, Layomi went on her social media and posted various stories where she explained this situation in detail. Quickly this became viral among the University students. Everyone knew about it and more people started to come out with their own similar experiences of how they were treated differently because of their skin colour and/or race.
This wave of awareness forced the University Student Union to make a public statement on their Instagram, but the comeback was so bad that they turned off the comment section just a couple of hours later. The post reads: “As part of widening this process we’d really like to hear about your experience of Sub Zero this year […] we are passionate about running the safest, most welcoming nightclub experience for Essex students and any feedback you can provide will help us towards achieving this”.
Until today, the security company hired by the University hasn’t commented on the events.
This has shed light on the various events of racism that occur in the UK today. It is proof that racism is widely institutionalised, even at the University level where students should feel safe and treated equally at all times. Undoubtedly, this is an issue that should be taken up by all institutions, but in a highly educational place, it should be almost mandatory.
The problem isn’t taking a stand, but actually following it. For example, the University of Essex took a huge and strong stand regarding the George Floyd episode, but they seem to have forgotten about everything in less than two years.