‘Discriminatory’ sombreros banned from University of East Anglia event

Sombrero hats are no longer welcome at the UEA.

Sombrero hats are no longer welcome at the UEA. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The UEA's Student Union has attracted criticism from the British Mexican Society for banning Sombreros from an event because they deemed them 'discriminatory'.

The UEA's Student Union defended the ban.

The UEA's Student Union defended the ban. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2008

The Student Union banned the hats, which had been brought to a Freshers' Fair on Thursday by Norwich Tex-Mex restaurant Pedro's, because they didn't meet the Union's advertising policy on 'equal opportunities' and 'discriminatory' grounds.

The policy, which was sent to stallholders before the fair, reads: 'Discriminatory or stereotypical language or imagery aimed towards to any group or individual based on (…) characteristics will not be permitted as part of our advertising.'

But Richard Maudslay, chairman of the British Mexican Society, said: 'We would applaud any business of any nationality for doing things to drum up business in a legitimate way. We don't see the handing out of sombreros as advertising being discriminatory.'

Chris Jarvis, campaigns and democracy officer at the Student Union, defended the ban.

Chris Jarvis, campaigns and democracy officer.Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Chris Jarvis, campaigns and democracy officer.Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

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He said: 'At the Student Union we want all members to feel safe and accepted, so at all events we try to ensure that there is no behaviour, language or imagery which could be considered racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or ablest.

'At the fair all our stallholders were sent a copy of our advertising policy prior to the event and were also given a physical copy of the policy on the day, so we're confident that all stallholders should have been aware of our restrictions on advertising in relation to equal opportunities and cultural appropriation.

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'The company in question was Pedros restaurant, and the stallholders stopped once asked and were amicable in ceasing.

'That said, we know that when it comes to cultural appropriation the issues can sometimes be difficult to understand and many don't realise that they may be about to cause offence or break a policy. So we're discussing internally how we can improve our briefing to both external organisations and our own members so that people aren't caught out at the last minute.'

Matthew Ward, 27, general manager at Pedro's, said the restaurant had been celebrating Mexican culture for 33 years.

'As we handed out the sombreros we were told it was 'inculturally indifferent' which we think is a shame because we are not doing anything to offend and we are just celebrating the culture,' he said.

It is unclear how the UEA Student Union policy will affect fancy dress parties or which other hats could be banned.

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