The union’s Welcome Week event, #NetworkUEA, more commonly known as the Freshers’ Week T-shirt party, has been a source of controversy after allegations that students were forced to change their t-shirts after being deemed by union representatives to be offensive.

Students who attended the event reported being “forced” to change attire, with one student – a 19-year-old, first-year politics student who did not wish to be named – telling Concrete: “By the time I reached the front of the queue there were about 50 to 60 students behind me and many congregated around the entry area. As I entered a female member of staff told me I could not enter the LCR with ‘that’ on my shirt”.

He added that he “was not given an option to change privately, and I was told that if I did not change, I would not be allowed into the venue”.

“I fail to see what authority the union has to deny people entry to a venue based on an obscenity written on a t-shirt. Who are they protecting: seven-year-olds?”

#NetworkUEA was designed to allow first-year students to exchange social media account details and to get to know each other. The event was sold out, however many students were left with a sour taste in their mouth.

One of the T-shirts that was confiscated from students during the Freshers’ Week’s #NetworkUEA. Photo: Chloe Alexander.
One of the T-shirts that was confiscated from students during the Freshers’ Week’s #NetworkUEA. Photo: UUEAS.

Liam McCafferty, Postgraduate Education Officer, said: “On the night of the T-shirt party our staff had to make to clear to a tiny minority of our customers that imagery on their T-shirts constituted racism or harassment and that they would not be permitted to enter wearing the shirts.

“Problems included bullying references to union officers/societies; homophobic references and jokes; racism/anti-semitism; and sexual references. In order that customers did not have to return home we offered the opportunity to redecorate shirts and delete material, or change into a new shirt. No customers were “forced” to change. Neither Yinbo Yu nor Jo Swo were present at the door”.

Concrete understands that it was wrongly alleged on social media that Swo and Yu, both full-time union officers, were involved in the confiscation.