Berkshire

Reading students apologise for 'pikey night' social

The University of Reading Image copyright University of Reading
Image caption The students set off fire extinguishers and fireworks and threw furniture in a residential street during the event

Students who held a social event billed as "Pikey night" have apologised for offending the Traveller community.

The Agricultural Society at Reading University "apologised profusely" for the themed evening, the Reading Chronicle reports.

The students set off fire extinguishers and fireworks and threw furniture in the street at the event last October.

The Traveller Movement said it was "absolutely right" to apologise for an event with "an overtly racist theme".

The non-profit organisation which represents the Irish Traveller, Gypsy and Roma communities said it contacted the university after the original open letter from the Vice-Chancellor only criticised the students 'poor behaviour' and did not mention the racist elements.

Reading University said it had to carry out an investigation into which students had taken part in the social event, and also seek legal advice before it could issue the official apology.

Banned society

"The term 'pikey' is widely recognised as a derogatory term for Gypsies and Travellers, and there is no place for it in an institution that should provide a safe and nurturing environment for all students, regardless of their race or ethnicity", Traveller Movement CEO Yvonne MacNamara, said.

"We know that many Gypsy and Traveller students still do not feel comfortable disclosing their ethnicity at university for fear of discrimination.

"So racism against Gypsies and Travellers must be tackled with the same vigour as with any other ethnicity."

The Agricultural Society has been banned from Reading University's student union since 2015 following another themed night in which members "blacked up".

However, it continued to meet unofficially.

In the apology, the society said it understood "pikey" was offensive and its use "offended a vast majority of the University of Reading's community including the wider student community and even the local community".

"This leads us to apologise further to the local residents that were affected by the offensive behaviour carried out by the society as a whole."

A spokesman for the university said the students "had been taken through the disciplinary process" and that a letter of apology had been sent to the Traveller Movement.

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