The University of Manchester’s vice-chancellor has apologised for falsely claiming to have contacted the alleged victim of a racial profiling incident on campus.
Nancy Rothwell told BBC Newsnight on Thursday she had written to first-year student Zac Adan, 19, to apologise after he was pinned to a wall by security guards who demanded to see his student ID.
During the interview, she said she had been “very, very concerned” by the incident and had “apologised to the student for the distress that he felt”.
However, she has since written to Adan to “sincerely apologise” over the claim. In a YouTube video posted by the university’s media team, Rothwell said the last few weeks had been “extremely difficult” for the university.
“Last night, I appeared on BBC Newsnight. It was a difficult interview. This morning, I realised that one of the things I said in that interview, with good intent, was, in fact, incorrect,” she said.
“I said that I had written to the student that was involved in a serious incident on 13 November. I found out today that, in fact, that was not included in correspondence to him. I am devastated that I made the wrong remark on national television.”
She added: “I can’t tell you how sorry I am about it. I can only commit to the fact that I am passionate about this university, about our staff, our students, and our values, which, of course, include zero tolerance of any discrimination, and support for everybody within it, and I will do the very best I can to uphold those values, and to support our university.”
Adan, a student of French and linguistics, said he was accused of “looking like a drug dealer” by the security officers after returning to the university’s Fallowfield campus from a visit to a local shop on 13 November. He told the BBC he had been left “traumatised” by the events.
The University of Manchester (UoM), which is part of the prestigious Russell group of universities, has since suspended the officers involved and launched an investigation into the incident.
Rothwell’s renewed apology over the handling of the incident comes after anti-racism campaigners called for her to resign last week. On Monday night, dozens of students took part in a protest on campus amid growing anger at the university’s handling of the coronavirus lockdown.
The university has been at the centre of a series of controversies this term, including the installation of temporary fencing around the Fallowfield campus without prior warning, prompting demonstrations from students. The fencing, which was erected on the first day of the lockdown, cost £11,000 and was torn down by students.
A small group of students have also occupied a university building to demand a 40% cut in rent at residential halls following most tuition moving online. A counter-offer of a 20% reduction from the university was this week described as “a slap in the face” by the University and College Union (UCU).