Previously accused of antisemitic slur against candidate
A high-ranking student official at one of the oldest universities in the world has drawn outrage on her campus by seeming to cheer for the deaths of police officers in the wake of the Dallas sniper shootings.
Ada J. Wells, the elected “LGBT+ Liberation Group convenor” of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) in Scotland, tweeted “even dead cops are bastards” just hours after Micah Xaxier Johnson killed five officers and wounded several more guarding a Black Lives Matter march.
She clearly wanted her anti-police message to be seen as the Internet worldwide reacted to the shooting, using the trending hashtag #dallaspoliceshooting.
Johnson had reportedly stated he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
Wells, who is white, uses “they” pronouns and calls herself a “Lesbian Non-binary Trans Woman,” doubled down on her position when confronted by other Twitter users.
She claimed “every cop is complicit in state violence. that’s the job description,” but appeared to reject allegations from one user that she was celebrating the deaths: “i’m not celebrating, i’m just not mourning either.”
She has since marked her Twitter account as “protected,” meaning only followers that she approves can see her tweets.
The LGBT+ Liberation Group seeks to provide a “safe space” within the EUSA for such students to gather and “campaign to improve their student experience.” As convenor, Wells has pledged to push for more gender-neutral facilities at the university, raise the profile of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and “campaign for justice” for LGBT+ prisoners and asylum seekers.
Some students and alumni at the prestigious university, whose headcount of 35,000-plus students includes more than 10,000 who are not from the U.K. or European Union, reacted with shock and anger to the comments by the student official.
Law student Robbie Travers, who describes himself online as a strong supporter of Iraq War-era Prime Minister Tony Blair, tweeted “That @AdaJWells represents the LGBT community at Edinburgh which I am a part of shames me, and @EUSA.” A self-identified alumnus of the university suggested contacting the EUSA to complain: “This is my alma matter. I am angry.”
— Robbie Travers (@RobbieTravers) July 9, 2016
— Cassy Mack (@crazygirlcass) July 10, 2016
Jess Husbands, vice president societies & activities at EUSA, told The College Fix that any complaints “received through our official complaints process … will be investigated internally.”
She said that all Edinburgh students, “including those elected as student representatives, are free to share their views on social media, however those views should not be taken as representing Edinburgh University Students’ Association.”
Wells has not replied to repeated requests for comment from The Fix through her social media profiles or EUSA. Louise Kelly, deputy marketing and communications manager of the EUSA, told The Fix she was unable to ask Wells to respond.
This is because “while Ada is a student representative elected to lead the LGBT+ group within the Students’ Association, she is not an employee here,” Kelly explained.
‘Zio’ isn’t a slur?
The current row is not the first occasion where Wells has drawn criticism for her statements far afield from LGBT matters.
In March, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported that EUSA had refused to publicly release the results of its investigation into allegations that Wells used an antisemitic slur by calling a candidate for student union president a “Zio” on Twitter.
Again, Wells had sought out attention for the remark by attaching a hashtag referring to the candidate debate (#EdQT) where the purported “Zio,” Theo Robertson-Bonds, was speaking.
Wells apologized in a statement to student news website The Tab, saying she “was not aware that the term ‘Zio’ was not simply a shortened form of Zionist” and that there was “no animosity” from Robertson-Bonds, who is not Jewish.
In some ways, Wells’ political views reflect the EUSA’s direction on political and cultural issues.
The association voted in April to back the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and “eliminate from its venues any products made by companies with operations in the occupied territories,” the university newspaper The Student reported. It was opposed by the university’s Jewish Society and its Israel Engagement Society.
EUSA also attracted international controversy when it tried to eject one of its own officials from the BDS debate because she raised her hand and shook her head in disagreement with anti-Israel arguments.
Her gestures were alleged to violate the EUSA’s “safe space” policy, which bans students at meetings from using “hand gestures which denote disagreement or in any other way indicating disagreement with a point or points being made.”
The policy, which is nearly two years old, also bans students at meetings from clapping if a policy proposal fails to pass and claims that the association rejects “whorephobia” (discrimination against sex workers).
Magdalen Berns, a radical feminist student at the university, has claimed that EUSA-linked activists banned her from online discussion groups because she criticized the sex industry’s exploitation of women.
EUSA, among other things, also bans students at parties from dressing up in “Gangster” costumes, calling it an unacceptable form of “Dressing as a stereotype of a race, culture or group of people.” It also bans “Costumes which use cross-dressing for the purpose of humour.”
Last fall, EUSA approved a policy to “educate students on the dangers of the Counter Terrorism Security Act and the Prevent Strategy,” which obligates U.K. universities to “prevent people being drawn into terrorism.”
It first voted in 2005 to officially affiliate with the Right to Education campaign at the Palestinian Birzeit University, and the association renewed that vote this January.
This is despite Hamas-affiliated groups winning student elections at Birzeit in 2015, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an News. Previously, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Hamas student activists “marched through campus carrying Hamas-made M-75 rockets, which terrorists fired at major Israeli cities in October 2012.”
Despite such controversies, the EUSA received nearly three quarters of its net revenue – £2.8 million ($3.71 million) in grants – directly from the university, which is itself taxpayer-funded, in the 2014-15 financial year.
Colin Cortbus is a university student in the United Kingdom.