Edge Hill SU President-Elect dressed as Holocaust victim and joked about being “gassed”

Grace Piercy discusses the controversy surrounding the President-Elect of Edgehill University's SU.

Grace Piercy
29th March 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The President-Elect of Edge Hill University's Students' Union is facing disciplinary action, following backlash for an offensive photo posted on Instagram and Facebook in October last year.

The photos showed Sam Farrell dressed as a Holocaust victim whilst attending a “movie and TV show” themed social event, though it remains unclear what ‘character’ he was portraying. The SU President-Elect wore a striped jumpsuit with a bald cap, to imitate a Jewish concentration camp inmate. The post was captioned “In dire need of a shower after last night's social #gassed”.

This was not Farrell’s first offence, as he also posted a reaction to Reading Festival’s lineup in February 2019, with the Facebook caption “pretty sure the Holocaust had better headliners”.

Edge Hill Students' Union (EHSU) elected Farrell as their new President on 18 March, and he was due to take up his position in July. The Union has since suspended the election result whilst there is an investigation into whether disciplinary measures need to be taken.

There has also been some backlash against the Union itself, due to them having prior knowledge of Farrell’s posts, courtesy of the Union of Jewish Students at the university. Farrell was allowed to stand in the election despite numerous complaints about the photos from Jewish students. The union argued that they had previously disciplined him and that “complaints can only be made against a candidate’s behaviour during the time that they are a candidate in the election”, according to election bylaws.

EHSU released a statement, saying: “We do not underestimate the severity of this situation…As such, regardless of the outcome of any disciplinary action we will ensure that all student officers are given appropriate training…Should the student in question remain in position, we will ensure that they are made to come to terms with their behaviour and realise what it means to act as a public servant.”

EHSU was contacted by the Union of Jewish Students and agreed to participate in antisemitism training for new officers and staff.

Edge Hill University has also responded to the incident, saying: “Whilst the Students’ Union is a wholly independent organisation, responsible for the election and appointment of its officers, the University will not tolerate behaviour of this kind and will not hesitate to use its own procedures if necessary.”

Sam Farrell has released a statement, saying he was “deeply sorry for the hurt and pain caused”, stating it was “never (his) intention to deliberately offend or to make any student feel unsafe”, Farrell added “I only hope I can convey how genuine I am when I say that I now realise how naïve and ignorant my past behaviour was. It was wrong, it will not happen again, and it should not have happened in the first place.”

The Auschwitz Museum has since also made a stated that the number Farrell wore, 38451, belonged to Mr Hersch Frydman who lost his life at Auschwitz on 19 August 1942 at the age of 28.

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