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By Adam Bouyamourn
Whisper it quietly – OUCA’s leadership almost acted responsibly. Almost.
The prompt ejection of the racist and sexist KCL tag-along from Sunday’s Port and Policy meeting was the right decision. However, the decision of OUCA President Natalie Shina to refuse to confirm that the incident occurred – and to refuse to publicly condemn the incident – was baffling, and brings into question her abilities as leader of the organisation.
Van Rij’s endorsement of the views of a pro-Apartheid South African President, and his establishment, when in America, of a society intended to “rid the West of Eastern influence” ought to horrify any right-minded individual. It is sad and disconcerting that anyone holds such views; doubly so that an educated student does.
It isn’t worth even a few words in a student newspaper’s editorial to attempt to rebut his opinions. What would an argument against him look like? “No, really, women do deserve to be outside the kitchen.” “Actually, apartheid was bad.” Anyone who needed to be reminded of this wouldn’t be worth interacting with or writing for.
But why haven’t the leadership of OUCA issued a strong statement of condemnation, instead of merely listing the people who didn’t hear the speaker’s remark?
That course of action seems to miss the point entirely. No-one would accuse the national Conservative party of holding such opinions; and one would obviously hope that the leadership of OUCA do not hold such opinions – so why not admit that the event occurred and that it was massively distasteful?
It is unfortunate that this event occurred on the same week as OUCA regained its endorsement from the University. But perhaps the organisation’s leaders should realise that University affiliation requires that OUCA act sensibly and responsibly.
This means that if someone shouts a sexist remark at an event the organisation is holding, that remark should be publicly condemned. The organisation shouldn’t pretend that none of its members heard it.
OUCA should realise that its activists and supporters are likely to be to the right of the national party – it is true of most party organisations that the views of activists are more extreme than the national organisation.
This brings with it the possibility that some of its members will hold racist, sexist, or homophobic views. A realistic reaction to this fact on behalf of the organisation’s officers would involve formulating a strategy for dealing intelligently with the occurrence of such events.
OUCA’s history, in fact, bears witness to both these facts: the recurrence of behaviour that many would find abhorrent, and the lack of a leadership strategy for dealing with that behaviour. Last year wasn’t the first time OUCA became OCA.
If OUCA can’t show that it’s changed, that’s proof that the endorsement isn’t deserved.