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Student president hopeful claimed homophobia allegations were a ‘smear campaign’. Then he found out about the screenshot

Emma Powys Maurice March 3, 2020
Cambridge student makes woefully meagre apology for homophobic slur

Matthew Alderton speaking at the Cambridge student's union election hustings (Rosie Bradbury/Varsity)

A candidate for president of the University of Cambridge student union claims he is victim of a “smear campaign” after he came under fire for using a homophobic slur.

In November, when he was the vice president of Magdalene JCR, undergraduate Matt Alderton used the slur “batty boy” on his college’s Facebook page in reference to a friend.

Alderton is now running to be president of his university’s entire student body, which numbers approximately 21,600 people.

When questioned about the post at the Cambridge student union election hustings on Friday, he initially denied it as a “baseless allegation” that was intended to affect his standing in the election.

“I see the CUSU smear campaign is operating as effectively as I thought it would be,” Varsity reported him saying. “You guys can’t cope with someone who disagrees with you, I know that, that’s fine.”

He continued: “What your question is, is a way to further a smear campaign… I will not stand here and face quite baseless allegations against a subject matter which does not necessarily affect the actual running of this election.”

Alderton backtracked when a reporter said they had a screenshot showing the use of the slur. He then said he was aware of the post but didn’t want to “waste the time” of the other candidates by addressing it, adding that it would not be appropriate to do so with a crowd present.

“Hustings is not the time and the place to discuss it,” he said.

When pressed further on the matter Alderton insisted he had used the homophobic slur “in complete ignorance of what it had meant” and did not realise what “the ramifications” would be. He said that as soon as he was told what it meant he retracted it immediately.

“I’m not proud. I don’t go around and boast about it, and it’s something that I hold in deep shame. But at the same time, I would like you to think if I had believed the ramifications of it, I wouldn’t have posted it in the first place.”

But his college’s LGBT+ representative, Harry White, said that Alderton’s initial denial was “concerning” and shows a “lack of humility and recognition of the true danger of using homophobic slurs even unintentionally”.

Speaking to Varsity, White said that Alderton’s behaviour was “certainly not befitting” of someone who is hoping to represent the entire student body of Cambridge.

“As far as I’m concerned, his comment is at best dangerously ignorant, and an example of the sort of blasé attitude towards homophobia which can prevent LGBT+ people from truly feeling comfortable in the wider community,” he said.

“I also find it puzzling that Matt thinks this is irrelevant to the election.

“I would hope Matt recognises the importance of the SU president having the confidence of the LGBT+ community, and therefore I would have expected him to be keen to answer these questions and set the record straight.”

PinkNews has reached out to the University of Cambridge and the student union for comment.

More: cambridge university, homophobic slurs, Oxbridge

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