Australian college accused of racism

Last Updated: Sunday, June 10, 2012 - 10:58

Melbourne: An elite Australian college has sparked a race controversy after it organised a "colonial-themed" party where Indians wearing traditional garments served guests present at the event.

The St Paul`s college, affiliated with the University of Sydney, had organised its yearly "upscale" dinner with an `end of the British raj` theme, asking guests to come dressed in "white tie of colonial uniform" and served them Indian food.

College students, who arrived at St Paul`s great hall dressed in immaculate black dinner suits with matching white handkerchiefs, were met by a team of Indian and south Asian waiters, dressed in colourful traditional cultural garments, who served them Indian delicacies and curries, the Sydney Morning Herald reported today.

But within days of the event, ideological war broke out at the university over whether the college was basking in the glory of colonialism and slavery. Before long, vicious vitriol began ricocheting across Facebook, the report said.

"I am Indian and I used to go to college. My relatives suffered in colonial India. This theme offended me and brought me to the brink of tears," one female student wrote.

"Please, can you all come to our next party? It`s Mexican themed, and we`ll be celebrating all the abductions and beheadings you can poke a stick at," a student responded.

"I have this turban and - what luck! - it`s just your size," another provoked.

"That`s it, ban ALL the upscale parties!!" another wrote.

Had it not been a letter to the student newspaper, Honi Soit, from an outraged arts student, Mason McCann, the white tie event may have gone unnoticed.

"I do not think the party was a celebration of Indian culture, it was a celebration of imperialism," McCann told The Sun-Herald.

"The party demonstrates a serious deep disconnect between the culture of St Paul`s and the culture of the University of Sydney. I am deeply offended by it.”

"They have a responsibility as a prestigious and old institution to project a positive public image to both the other students and the public, and I think that party succeeded in doing just the opposite of that."

In response to McCann`s letter which was published in full, Hugo Rourke from St Paul`s, who as senior student speaks on behalf of his peers, wrote to Honi Soit to justify the party.

"It was a successful event, held in good taste and enjoyed by attendees and employees alike," he wrote, seemingly shocked that the event would cause such uproar.

The catering company for the event, Sodexo, was similarly taken aback by the suggestion their workers had been forced to don cultural garb.

Its state manager, Ram Devagiri, said his staff, who all have south Asian backgrounds and work at the college full-time serving three meals a day, were having an "absolute ball" at the party and had become "annoyed" at the insinuation there were racial undertones at play.

Meanwhile, the Student Representative Council passed a motion condemning the themed party.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, June 10, 2012 - 10:58

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