There are more than twice as many male speakers than female in the Union’s Hilary termcard, which was released in full on Tuesday. Two speakers are yet to be confirmed for the seventh week debate on whether the Obama administration has been a success. Of the 26 who have confirmed their attendance at the Union’s weekly debate, eighteen are men and eight are women.
In a statement issued to the Oxford Student, the Union said that it “always strives to invite an equal number of men and women … in recent years, with this term being a particular highlight, leading women in their fields are speaking at the Union. It is, however, regrettable that we exist in a society rife with inequality and, as a forum that is committed to allowing everyone to have their voices heard, we of course continue in our endeavour to rectify such issues.”
Controversial debates will feature Galloway and Hopkins
The term opens in first week with the topic of Holocaust denial. The proposition, who will argue that denial should not be criminalised, include the esteemed academics Sir Richard Evans and Professor Deborah Lipstadt. They will be opposed by Professor Charles Asher Small and François de Smet. This sets the scene for a term of debates on a range of controversial issues, some old, some new. A few of the speakers have not escaped controversy either. Katie Hopkins, the Sun columnist, will speak against positive discrimination. The Respect Party politician George Galloway will propose in sixth week that the west has no responsibility to take military action against ISIS.
A collection of academics, politicians, journalists and activists are joined by military and police officers, and businesspeople. In third week Sir Malcom Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, will oppose sacrificing trade with China over human rights abuses; across the dispatch box will sit Lobsang Sangay, the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, and Natalie Bennett, the Green Party Leader in the UK. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, will speak in favour of “prioritising public safety over the right to strike” in a topical debate coinciding with calls from the British Medical Association for junior doctors to strike.
Politicians are largest speaker profession
In line with the debates, 32 of the 45 guest speakers in Hilary are men. Of the eleven politicians, only three are female, while neither of the two diplomats are women. Seven actors (five male), four sportspeople (all male), and four musicians (split evenly between genders) follow as the next most popular categories. But a diverse range of talent is represented this term, spread across eighteen types of profession, from architects to royalty, and activists to speech-writers. There are more women activists and cooks than there are men in those categories, and an equal number of artists, musicians and radio/TV presenters.
Amongst the big names from the stage and on the screen are the actors Sir John Hurt, David Hasselhoff, Shia LaBeouf, Mark Hamill, Laurence Fox and Frances de la Tour. Mary Berry, the cook of Great British Bake Off fame is due to speak in eighth week, while the radio presenter Chris Moyles has yet to confirm the date of his attendance. Also set to appear in the last week of term is the musician Tom Odell, while Gabrielle Aplin should be speaking in third or fourth week. The lyricist Sir Tim Rice has yet to confirm a date, but is set to appear this term too.
No fewer than five former or serving European Prime Ministers are also scheduled to make appearances: Charles Michel of Belgium, Antonis Samaras of Greece, Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal, Bertie Ahern of Ireland and Isa Mustafa of Kosovo. Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and Ali Babacan, former Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, are amongst the other politicians featured in the termcard. Perhaps lesser known in the political world is Jon Favreau, who served as Barack Obama’s official speechwriter; he will speak in fourth week.
A number of businesspeople make the list: Deborah Meaden, one of the ‘dragons’ in Dragons’ Den, Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, and Bernard Arnault, who is chairman of LMVH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Harry Redknapp, the football manager, will speak in second week. Edwin van der Saar, who played for Ajax, Juventus and Manchester United football clubs, is set to appear in seventh week. Boris Becker, the German tennis player and Wimbledon champion, speaks in eight week. Perhaps the most well-known and controversial sportsperson to make the list is Lance Armstrong, the US cyclist who has been involved in doping scandals since 2012.
An eclectic range of other speakers are slated to appear. Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein will attend in the same week as the trade unionist Len McCluskey. Chris Patten, Lord Patten of Barnes, who is Oxford’s current Chancellor, a former Conservative Home Secretary and the last Governor of Hong Kong is yet to confirm the date of his speech. The Isreali Ambassador and the Iranian-born secularist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie will be in Oxford in seventh week, while the architect Dame Zaha Hadid will be at the Union in fifth week, along with Tariq Ali, the Pakistani writer and journalist.
Just under half of these speakers live in the United Kingdom and nine are United States citizens. The remainder come from nineteen countries, from Belgium to India, and Switzerland to Iran.
Image: Barker Evans (Free Art License)