Rashmi Samant, who made history after she became the first Indian woman to be elected president of the Oxford University Student Union has decided to step down from the post following accusations of having made racist remarks.
Samant, a graduate student reading for an MSc in energy systems, with a focus on sustainability, at Linacre College at the university, scored a landslide win in the election last week when she received 1,966 of the 3,708 votes cast for the post amid a large turnout.
Samant, an alumnus of Manipal Institute of Technology, Karnataka, released an open apology letter to respond to criticism surrounding controversial statements she has made in the past. She has also deactivated her social media accounts after announcing her decision of resigning on Facebook.
In the letter published in' The Oxford Student', she said, "I begin this letter with a heartfelt apology to the entire student community at the University of Oxford. Though the recent developments might make it hard for you to believe the sincerity of my apologies, it deeply pained me to note that I have lost the trust that the student community reposed in me with their votes and belief in my manifesto owing to my mistakes. Regrettably, I alienated people within our wonderful student community to the extent that they deem me unfit to be the leader they rightfully deserve. I sincerely apologise to every student who has been hurt by my actions or words and seek a chance to gain your trust in me again."
"I fully acknowledge my shortcomings over the years and the past few days in my capacity as President-elect. I come to you with an apology and a willingness to learn. I earnestly seek your help in making amends for my mistakes. I urge you to trust me that I care very deeply for this community, which has given me a wonderful student experience over the past few months that I have been here. I have learnt tremendously to say the least but my learning is nowhere near complete. I will personally reach out to each community over the next few days and make the utmost efforts to unlearn and relearn nuances of every diverse community so that when it is my time to assume the role of President, I will be the person this community deserves."
"When I take on the role in June, I would expect nothing less but the highest amount of scrutiny and inspection of my every move as your representative and would carry out the responsibility solely on the dignity and the merit of the position."
"I come to you seeking forgiveness for the mistakes and acceptance for my willingness to learn from them. It comes after a prolonged silence from my end since I have had to fly back home to deal with a personal crisis. The chance to correct our mistakes and grow beyond limitations are the best gifts an individual may attain from fellow human beings. My belief in this community leaves me hopeful of one and I look forward to be a part of a better world."
The Oxford Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) condemned Rashmi Samamt after it emerged that she had posted several problematic social media posts, including ones that have been criticised as racist and antisemitic. The newly elected President also faced criticism from other campaigns and JCRs.
According to 'The Oxford Student', Samant had made a holocaust pun on a post about visiting the Berlin Holocaust Memorial in 2017. Samant has also been criticised for an Instagram caption on a picture of herself in Malaysia that read “Ching Chang”.
During an event hosted by The Oxford Blue on the 8th February 2021, Samant commented on the ongoing controversy surrounding the statue of Cecil Rhodes, making a direct comparison with Hitler: “If an organisation would come up to you and give you a heap of money to set up a scholarship and say ‘I want to name this the Hitler fund or the Hitler scholarship’, would you do it?”