The power of misreporting – 7-Legged has been cancelled

I am a University of Nottingham alumni and I am disappointment at a decision the Students’ Union has made.  I have written to the SU and awaiting their reply.  Here’s my I am angry:

The University of Nottingham’s Student Union in a statement on the 6th February announced that the 7 Legged event would cease.

On October 17th 2016, the annual 7-Legged Karnival event took place, which saw thousands of students go around the city in groups of 7 for a charity pub crawl.  The event attracts fancy dress, with a team dressing up as being in and part of a rollercoaster.

On June 2nd 2015, Alton Towers’ Smiler rollercoaster crashed.  It caused numerous serious injuries which led to amputations and numerous operations. 

The following photograph was taken, as well as a few others, and featured in The Tab, a “news” network run by young editors in an articled titled “Exclusive: Pub crawl team dress up as Alton Towers Smiler ride amputees”. 

After The Tab published this article, national news media organisations picked up this “story”, including The Sun, The Daily Mirror, The Independent and even The BBC.

In later article titled “We messed up: an apology to the ’7 legless’ students”, The Tab admitted it “wrongly claimed” that students were dressed up as the victims of the Smiler crash.  It clearly states that the group name “7 Legless” refers to the 7 people in the group and the nature of being “legless”, an adjective of being drunk.  The article states that they wrongly drew the similarities between the wearers of this costume and the victims of the Smiler incident.

The BBC only made a brief addition to a published article which states that The Tab incorrectly reported that the students were dressing up as Smiler victims.  The article from the BBC and other organisations still exist.  The Tab’s originally article has been removed.

In the SU’s statement, it said that the “Students’ Union is taking proactive steps to improve activities and better manage the risks associated with the Karnival event”.  It states the Board of Trustees have agreed about this particular event no longer existing despite the aforementioned incident being a “misrepresentation”.

The decision has been made due to the pressure from incorrect reporting by media organisations and not because of any actions taken. The statement continues that this incident brought “reputational impact for the Students’ Union and the distress to the students involved was significant”.

Karnival is a student-run charity, part of the Students’ Union, one of the largest in Europe.  In 2015, it raised £1,766,528.26 .  7-legged, is one of Karnival’s most popular events.  Students look forward to dressing up and going out in groups of 7 on the bar crawl.  The event itself cost each group around £50 to partake in.  The event, which would have seen its 52nd this October acts as a tool to attract new students to partake in later fundraising activities during the academic year. 

The decision to ban 7-Legged becomes slightly clearer, not in statement itself but in the FAQs section beneath.  Its states that the Charity Act and other fundraising legislation was updated which altered the relationship between Karnival and the SU.  The FAQs state that the Trustee Board made the decision with regards to “[t]he other key element of the Charities Act that we needed to ensure that we met fully is around safeguarding of not only those who carry out fundraising activities, but those people we come into contact with as part of those activities”.  There is an emphasis on the legal obligations of the Board to “safeguard the Union” and this includes taking action related to “legal, financial and/or reputational risks”.

It therefore appears that this decision has been made due to the smears made initially by The Tab and then larger nationwide news organisations.  The Board of Trustees is separate from the democratic structure of the SU and therefore this decision seems dictatorial.

Advice has been issued that rather than harming the university’s charity fundraising capabilities, by cancelling the 7-legged event, it should instead seek legal advice for libel.  The media organisations have brought the university’s reputation to harm.

How can it be the case that because of false reporting on some “news”, a economically and socially beneficial event can be shut down.  The event of course, does bring some controversial costumes.  The act of dressing up and putting on a costume encourages creativity.  Think of art?!  This was not controversial and it was not offensive.

A report by the university’s magazine Impact, revealed there was no correlation between the Smiler incident and this costume.  The students, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that the colouring was different, there was no name of the ride and the intention was to mimic a joint fancy dress costume from years previously.

As well as disputing, The Tab’s editors, Joseph Archer’s initial claims of the likeness to the incident, the students stated their upset at being accused of this and the “the most upsetting aspect” was that those involved in the crash were falsely told they were being mocked and have therefore issues an apology because of the harm they were made to believe they had inflicted.

The cancellation of this event is pandering to the media’s false reaction.  Imagine if the media falsely report on something else which could damage the university?  Maggots were found in a Mooch burger? 

“SU states Mooch to stop serving food”.

Libel?  Come on.

Samuel

Update:

On the 8th February 2017, I emailed the SU.  I quickly wrote the message and sent it without properly proof reading it.  I have made some errors – notably saying “adequate” when I meant “inadequate”.  Below is the unedited message and today I received a reply from the President of the SU, Ismail Sadurdene.

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