Student stands up to a serious racial incident at Hughes Hall, Cambridge, during a summer school hosted by Oxford University.

On Friday 15th July 2022, a serious incident of racism occurred at Hughes Hall, Cambridge, during a summer school hosted by Oxford University. During a formal dinner at the college, the students on the program all received an Airdrop with a photo of George Floyd, from a device named  “I hate ni**as”. 

George Hofstetter, the only Black person on the program, soon realised that “no one was going to stand up and say something, so I knew that I had to”.

Subsequently, Hofstetter stood up, told the instructors of the program what had just happened, and demanded that the perpetrator come forward. As he details, Hofstetter proceeded to share “a bit of my background in programming and let everyone know that I was going to let the instructors try and find the student responsible but they had thirty minutes to do [it]. And that within thirty minutes the student has the opportunity to come forward and take accountability, otherwise I’m going to get my laptop from my room, hack into the network and trace the image back to the exact device the student used.”

Half an hour later, still with no response, Hofstetter went to his room, retrieved his laptop, and proceeded to cross-reference the image properties on the suspected devices, eventually discovering the perpetrator in “under ten minutes”.

Having got the person to come forward, another student on the program—Alix-Marie—describes that “what followed was the most powerful speech I have ever heard in a person”. 

Hofstetter is the founder and CEO of GHTech, an American-based company whose work involves ‘uplifting marginalised communities of colour through leveraging technology’. The company is involved in various efforts to tackle systemic racism, including teaching racial inclusivity’, and building software for non-profit companies in order to provide “more resources for communities of colour around the world”, amongst other things. In his address to the students of the summer program, Hofstetter recounted his education growing up in Oakland, CA, and how he had learnt to deal with this sort of racial abuse.

Hofstetter explained to The Oxford Blue that “this covert attack has shown me how critical it is to continue fighting white supremacy perpetuated through technology and academia, not just in the United States, but across the world. This was a physical manifestation of why I started using technology as a social justice superpower”.

Another student, Touka Bensalem – a Muslim British citizen –  described the incident as “one of the most traumatising experiences of my life”, being both “afraid for the victim who had been threatened” as well as weary that she herself “could be targeted”.

Alix-Marie stated that she “will remember George Hofstetter, the boy who stood up for himself and the whole black community, like no other”.

A college spokesperson from Hughes Hall, Cambridge, made a statement to The Blue on 22nd July saying, “We have been made aware that a reportedly racist comment was shared among members of an external group which had hired college conferencing facilities. We understand the matter has been taken extremely seriously by the organisers and is currently being investigated. Hughes Hall condemns racism and racial harassment of any kind”.

The Oxford Blue is still waiting on a statement from the Oxford Summer School Program