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University of Wolverhampton scraps ‘insulting’ billboard after complaints

By Annabal Bagdi | Wolverhampton | Education | Published:

The University of Wolverhampton has withdrawn an ‘insulting’ billboard after a social media backlash by academics.

The University of Wolverhampton poster, which was labelled ‘insulting’ - Picture posted on Twitter by Nicole Andrews

The poster, which has appeared on hoardings all over the West Midlands, featured a white woman facing a group of black youngsters with the slogan: ‘If you want to explore new worlds, start here.’

It was aimed at promoting the university’s BSc (Hons) Public Health course and its clearing process.

A total of five sites across Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry saw the posters installed, the university confirmed.

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But Dr Helen Dexter, of the University of Leicester, raised her concerns with the university after seeing the poster online.

The associate professor of international politics, said: “This image is so offensive I am amazed anyone thought it was appropriate. Please withdraw it immediately.”

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Nicole Andrews, age 33, a health and social care lecturer at Newman University in Birmingham, said: “There’s strands of colonialism, patriotism, racism, gender issues. It’s a very difficult picture. I was pleased when it was taken down.”

Fellow lecturers responded in support of her message, including Dr Lisa Ann Richey from Denmark’s Roskilde University.

The professor of international development studies said: “Voluntourism is not something we should claim is educational. In addition to the obvious neocolonialism of this ad, there is also the visual signage indicating that anyone can ‘explore new worlds’ beginning at the lower back of a young, thin, white woman. Nothing good here.”

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Dr Diane Levine, also from the University of Leicester, said she was ‘astonished’, while Twitter user Padma Priya described the advert as: “Appalling. Insulting. Humiliating.”

The poster was also condemned by members of the university staff in Wolverhampton.

University blogger The Plashing Vole, wrote: “Oh dear: the old ‘white saviour’ trope in which kindly white individuals solve the problems of grateful black people.”

But the university has hit back at the claims and says it never intended to offend anyone with the billboards.

Head of marketing Raman Sarpal, said: “Every year the university runs numerous creative campaigns across various channels around the UK. Following careful consideration the decision was taken to withdraw this particular advert, which is part of a wider campaign, and we are in the process of removing the image.

“It was never the intention to cause any offence, but we take feedback like this seriously. The university prides itself on having a diverse student body, and of being inclusive.”

The university responded to the comments online, thanking the public for their comments and stating the advert had been withdrawn.

Annabal Bagdi

By Annabal Bagdi
@AnnabalB_Star

Senior reporter based at head office in Wolverhampton.

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