Derwent College is no stranger to unconventional election campaigns, with former JCRC merchandise representative bid efforts including condoms, underwear and “Make Derwent Great Again” hats. However, this year the competition for the election of a new JCRC Chair is what raised eyebrows. Rex Yardley-Rees, a first year, chose to run on the platform of bringing back the unorthodox on-campus club night Chav D.
Cancelled after the 2015 event was called “ignorant” and “derogatory”, Derwent Ents opted to choose other events to fill their April “D” slot, with Cops and Robbers D (2016) and Super D (2017). With accusations of Derwent demonising working class students and perpetuating negative stereotypes, the current YUSU president Alex Urquhart (at the time, Derwent Chair) chose to axe the provocative night as a matter of cultural sensitivity.
The JCRC at the time released a statement: “As a leading college community on campus, whose primary aim is to ensure our students feel appreciated and welcome, Chav D is no longer an event that Derwent can support.”
Kieran Dawson, a first year Derwent student, spoke to Nouse about Yardley-Rees’ eccentric campaign pledge: “I think it’s kind of a weak platform to run on in the first place, and if it was cancelled then clearly people were offended and I can think of no real reason to bring it back.”
Yardley-Rees based his campaign on “bringing a fresh view to the JCRC” and being “a move away from the same type of chairs [Derwent have] had in recent years”, but his tone, rather than being refreshing, seems to have left a bad taste in college members’ mouths.
A third year Derwent student, who wishes to remain anonymous, offered a potential justification for Yardley-Rees’ behaviour. “The way he acted during the campaign made it seem more like a rugby joke than a genuine promise, but nonetheless it reflected poorly on his sense of humour.”
However, Beth Fairley (also a third year student from the college) replied, “Given the recent debates about a working class officer, it’s clear that York students are sensitive to this kind of issue and, frankly, I think even a joke pledge like that is insensitive and just not funny.”
Alex Urquhart gave Nouse the following statement regarding the matter: “I feel my decision to cancel Chav D was generally well received on campus, because that theme is offensive. With an infinite choice of themes, choosing one that offends is a decision that does not consider the broader spectrum of people in the community and one that is not in keeping with the inclusive values that student leaders should maintain.”
Yardley-Rees was approached for comment, but had given no reply at the time of publication.