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5 Most Controversial Things That Happened At UK Universities In 2015

26/12/2015 09:11 GMT | Updated 26/12/2015 09:59 GMT

University life was never going to be quiet, and this year has been no different.

Students' unions, universities and student societies have all contributed in making this year one of the tumultuous we've seen yet.

Here are the five most controversial events of 2015..

1. SU diversity officer allegedly tweets 'kill all white men'

It seemed as if barely a week went by in 2015 without Bahar Mustafa, the Vice President for Welfare and Diversity at Goldsmiths University, being involved in some kind of controversy.

bahar mustafa

Bahar Mustafa resigned from her post in December

The 28 year old first came into the spotlight in April when she organised a university event that banned "white and/or male" attendees. In a post on Facebook Mustafa wrote: "This is a BME Women and non-binary event only.. Don't worry lads we will give you and allies things to do."

In response to this attention, Mustafa stated: "There have been charges made against me, that I am racist and sexist to white men. I want to explain why this is false. I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist to white men, because racism and sexism describes structures of privilege based on race and gender."

However, it was a tweets allegedly sent in May that saw Mustafa rise to notoriety - the SU officer was accused of calling someone 'white trash' and tweeting #killallwhitemen from an official university account.

Mustafa was arrested and charged with sending malicious communications, but the case was dropped in November due to a lack of evidence.

To round the year off, the diversity officer resigned from her post in December after accusations she had been bullying and harassing the student's union president, Adrihani Rashid. Mustafa told the Evening Standard she was resigning "for the preservation of my mental and physical health."

2. Cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation was a hot-button topic at universities in 2015, with New Orleans-themed end of year balls coming under fire and yoga classes being cancelled.

However, it was the University of East Anglia's decision to ban sombreros from the fresher's fair that gained the public's attention the most.

The hats, which were handed out by a local Tex-Mex restaurant, were banned by UEA's union as they violated strict cultural appropriation rules at the institution.

Campaigns and Democracy officer Chris Jarvis told the Tab Norwich: “At the SU we want all members feel safe and accepted, so at all events we try to ensure that there is no behaviour, language or imagery which could be considered racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or ableist.”

He continued: “We know that when it comes to cultural appropriation the issues can sometimes be difficult to understand and many don’t realise that they may be about to cause offence or break a policy.

“So we’re discussing internally how we can improve our briefing to both external organisations and our own members so that people aren’t caught out at the last minute.”

3. UK students banned from medicine course

In September, the University of Central Lancashire controversially launched a new £36,500 a year medicine course that barred British students from applying.

According to UCAS and Universities UK, it is the only course in the country that admits no home students.

As always, people unhappy with the decision took to Twitter.

Cathy Jackson, head of the university medical school told the Huffington Post UK: "We are very much not an elitist organisation and we are working with our partner trusts to improve the health economy in many ways in all the regions in which we are working.

"These international students self-fund their course in the same way as international students do at every other medical school in the UK. Unlike the other schools however, we don't yet have any home students."

4. Germaine Greer's lecture at Cardiff University

Over 3,000 people signed a petition to urge Cardiff University to cancel a lecture by Germaine Greer on the grounds she had made transphobic comments.

Rachael Melhuish wrote on the Change.org page: "Greer has demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.

"Trans-exclusionary views should have no place in feminism or society. Such attitudes contribute to the high levels of stigma, hatred and violence towards trans people - particularly trans women - both in the UK and across the world."

Greer, 76, responded in a statement to the BBC. "Just because you lop off your d*** and then wear a dress, doesn't make you a f*****g woman," she wrote.

"I've asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I'm going to wear a brown coat but that won't turn me into a f*****g cocker spaniel."

germaine greer

The lecture at Cardiff University took place, despite the petition.

She continued: "I do understand that some people are born intersex and they deserve support in coming to terms with their gender but it's not the same thing. A man who gets his d*** chopped off is actually inflicting an extraordinary act of violence on himself."

The lecture, titled 'Women & Power: the Lessons of the 20th Century', went ahead on November 18 despite the petition. The Guardian reported that uniformed police officers stood guard outside the lecture theatre and security officials were present at the talk.

5. UCL rent strikes

Student accomodation was in and out of the news throughout 2015 - in December, Durham University students held a funeral for education, complete with eulogies and a shrine, after it was announced accommodation prices would increase by 3.5%.

However, it was University College London that faced the most criticism over their student halls. Students renting in Hawkridge House in Kentish Town and Campbell House in Bloomsbury refused to pay their rent after they claimed living conditions in the university accommodation were "unbearable".

On the Change.org petition organised by Campbell House residents, students described how demolition works were making it impossible for them to study in their rooms, with noise levels reaching 90 decibels - the equivalent of a motorway - in one bedroom. Residents also claimed the building was infested with mice and rats.

university college london

Students gathered to show their anger at the housing situation

The Evening Standard reported that in response to the rent strike, the university threatened that students would not be able to progress with their courses. A letter from the site manager stated: “If the account remains outstanding and you are a first year or returning student you will not be able to re-enrol until any outstanding debt to UCL is cleared.

“Furthermore if you are a finalist and your outstanding balance is not cleared before the end of the term your results will be withheld, your degree will not be reported and you will not be able to attend your graduation ceremony.”

However, this action was later deemed to be both illegal and in contravention of UCL policy.

UCL eventually paid out over £400,000 to residents of the two halls in rent reimbursement.

Striker Kieran Howard told the Huffington Post UK: "I'm pleased that after months of campaigning we have been able to get what we sought after, which was not only compensation for the students affected but an admission of fault from UCL and an apology for the sub par accommodation.