The joint bar crawl, between Halifax College and James College, has come under fire by students and members of the public who have accused the colleges of using the word ‘chav’ – a stereotype used by the British media to refer to an antisocial youth subculture – as a basis for a “great night out”.
Feminist and PhD student at the University of Sussex Gillian Love said on Twitter: “Yo @yorkunisu, will you sort out @JamesJCRC ? They seem to think perpetuating stereotypes about ‘chavs’ is a great basis for a night out.”
But the word ‘toff’ is also at the centre of the storm – a separate stereotype used to describe someone with an aristocratic background.
The £3 event, which runs tonight (January 16), has asked students to either dress up as a ‘chav’ for Halifax College, or go out as a ‘toff’ for James College.
A description on the YUSU website says: “Don your Barbour jackets and lets [sic] take the chavs from James back to school!”
Meanwhile, the public Facebook page adds: “Halifax get your trackies, Burberyy [sic] and caps ready and James crack out your top hats, canes and monacles for a night of Halifax Vs James rivalry!”
The Chair of the Socialist Society, Megan Ollerhead, condemned the event for ‘poking fun’ at the working class and unemployed. She told Vision: “Personally I think the Chavs and Toffs event is a particularly unpleasant example of poking fun at the working class and unemployed, something which flourishes unchecked in certain sectors of the student body.
“It propagates unfair and distorted stereotypes, the same stereotypes used to demonize benefit claimants and take swathes of money from public services, and in this light the student union should shut this event down and discontinue the theme in the future.”
YUSU President Kallum Taylor acknowledged the potential problems with the use of the words ‘chavs’ and ‘toffs’ but said a universal offence would be hard to claim because no complaints had been received.
“I’ve got big problems with both terms; ‘chav’ and ‘toff’. Both of them have ugly and unfair connotations which have been forced onto them by those looking to ridicule and mock people and aspects of their lives who are from either ‘side’ of the socio-economic spectrum,” he said.
“We’ve received no complaints about it though, so it would be unfair to claim a universal offence of behalf of YUSU’s membership. However, students can lobby the respective college committees though – who can easily address this in the future.”
Vision has attempted to contact both the chair of James College and president of Halifax College for a response.