Wadham freshers have “destroyed” a substantial amount of furniture and turned a rental house into a “bomb site” after a house party at a second year residence got out of control. The second year tenants of the house have set up a crowdfunding page at gofundme.com in order to pay for the damage caused, and have raised over £150 so far from 29 people. (more…)
The committee for the St John’s Gender Equality Festival have been accused of libel in a circular email sent by Sam Galler, co-chair of OUSU’s “Mind Your Head” campaign.
The accusation centres around the statement released by the committee on Saturday evening, which apologised “unreservedly” for a “trans-exclusionary” article written for the festival zine by former Magdalen LGBTQ rep Elsa Field.
The committee’s apology, which disowned the practice of “platforming views [...] that contribute to a culture of oppression and fear’ was released following a flurry of criticism on social media, most prominently from the Oxford University LGBTQ Society trans rep Rowan Davis, who labelled the article “transphobic”.
Field has since resigned from her post as LGBTQ rep for Magdalen JCR, citing her “personal political views” as irreconcilable with her position.
Galler, who described himself in the circular as an “OUSU welfare campaign leader” slammed the committee’s statement as “inappropriate” and “libellous”, claiming that it both “negatively mischaracterises” and has been used to “demonise” Field, the author of the original piece.
“As someone responsible for promoting mental health at Oxford, I feel strongly that there have been mistakes made that are damaging to student wellness, and that these need to be corrected,” Galler continued, before requesting a full apology from the committee.
When contacted by the OxStu, OUSU VP (Welfare) Chris Pike stressed that Galler’s email does not represent an official OUSU position. Pike noted that, while “the feelings and wellbeing of all students are important, I do not believe that individual wellbeing can be used to excuse systemic oppression, including transphobia.”
Anna Bradshaw, OUSU VP (Women), took a similar line, commenting: “Within OUSU we are totally committed to the representation, inclusion and liberation of trans students.
“Our policy means that we define a ‘woman’ as ‘anyone who self-defines wholly or partially as a woman and/or as transfeminine’.”
Every undergraduate student at Queen’s is to receive a life-size inflatable Mr Blobby following the unanimous passage of an emergency motion proposed at last week’s JCR meeting.
The scheme will be funded by means of an opt-out blobby levy, or ‘blevy’, on every member of the JCR.
The ‘blevy’ of two pounds, reduced from an original estimated cost of five pounds, will be added on to the battels of every student in the Queen’s JCR who neglected to email JCR Treasurer Matt Lewis to opt out.
In a circular sent to the entire JCR, Lewis heaped praise on Mr Blobby as “one of the most influential spotted things in the history of spotted things” who “once reduced a girl to tears during one of his shows” and is responsible for “the worst song in the history of recorded sound”.
The proposer of the original motion, third-year Biochemist Andy Russell, explained the reasoning behind the scheme: “Mr Blobby inflatables was [sic] initially conceived due to their popularity at the recent ‘90s bop.
“People liked them so much that they took them home with them and there weren’t any left at the end. It was clear that JCR members had a desire to own their own personal inflatable Mr. Blobby.”
However, the motion has stirred discontent among certain members of the JCR. One commented: “I had hoped this motion would generate some controversy, so was very dispirited to see it pass without objection.
“To rectify this, I’d just like to put on record that the JCR imposing levies for public goods is a form of slavery, like taxation and free healthcare; furthermore, I’d also like to point out that having a straight white cis man put into our pidges is an offensive reminder of the pervasiveness of the patriarchy.”
The Balliol JCR has unanimously passed a motion in favour of a NUS demonstration in support of free education. The motion commits £100 to subsidise buses for Oxford students to attend the NUS demonstration in London on November 19th, and also assigns all three of Balliol’s votes in OUSU council to support the NUS motion.
The motion stated: “1. We face a clear choice in education funding: either our system is going to continue down the road towards an American-style model of private universities with uncapped fees, or we can take it closer to a German model of free, public and accessible education.
2. The German model of free education is preferable to the current UK system of high fees, debt, cuts to staff wages, and privatisation of the education system.
3. That we should join the campaign to fight for a better education system.”
The motion further argued that “tuition fees and marketisation have decisively failed to created sustainable funding for our universities” and that “fees act as a deterrent to access”.
The NUS demonstration, which will take place under the banner of “Free Education: No fees. No cuts. No debt”, is being held in protest against the coalition government’s higher education policies, including the privatisation of the Student Loans Company and the tripling of tuition fees to £9,000. The demonstration is backed by a coalition of activist groups including the Student Assembly Against Austerity, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and the Young Greens, and will follow a trade union demonstration on the 18th.
The passage of the motion was met with praise from JCR President Daniel Turner, who remarked: “Balliol JCR is very well placed to support the Oxford-wide movement for free education. We have a very politically active student base and the funds to back them up. It is absolutely right for the JCR to be political: we are the students’ union of Balliol undergraduates, and our stance on free education is unequivocal.
“The motion was not only passed unanimously, but was actually strengthened through a series of amendments doubling the amount of money the JCR is to provide and mandating Balliol’s OUSU votes to follow suit.”
Xavier Cohen, a second-year PPE student at Balliol, agreed, commenting: “Not a single person in the JCR general meeting – and I think there were possibly near to 100 of us there – made a principled stance against free education or the subsidising of buses to the national demo. The motion not only passed unanimously, but was made more radical by amendments. One amendment doubled the money from £50 to £100 and one amendment mandated all three Balliol reps for OUSU council to vote for the OUSU motion.
“I believe people voted to support the motion for principled reasons: we collectively recognised not only that education is a good thing and that people’s development matters, but that all should be able to access education regardless of wealth,” Cohen continued, before admitting: “This also isn’t a purely altruistic move: this is a campaign to make postgraduate education free, too.”
Activists across the university have responded to the news from Balliol positively, with the Oxford Activist Network circulating a draft motion for indivual students to bring to their JCRs. James Elliot, a second-year historian at Teddy Hall who drafted the motion, reported that: “In Oxford I’ve had interest from numerous JCRs, and I’m hoping the demo will be debated across the university. It’s an opportunity to show we’re serious about working with other unions to defend the education system from privatisation.”
Some on the Oxford left have criticized the OAN’s focus on the demonstration, however. Helena Dollimore, a third-year student at St Hildas and former co-chair of the Labour Club, commented: “you might be shooting the OAN/ lefty slate in the foot a bit by all going on the demo on polling day.”
Cohen admitted that the demonstration will clash with the elections, while stressing that “people have several days to vote and can still vote on the morning or evening of the demo. At a time when the Conservatives are thinking about uncapping fees, Labour is thinking about reducing them, and Germany has abolished them, this is a key political moment for the student movement to once again make the call for free education.”
Despite calls for unity within the student movement, it seems that various JCRs are continuing to jockey for the “crown of radicalism.” Cohen suggested that while “Wadham might talk the talk much better than Balliol, it appears that Balliol are the ones walking the walk.”
Turner struck a more conciliatory tone, stating that “we want to support students from all colleges to get involved in the fight for free education. I’d hope there will be Christ Church Tories sat alongside Wadham Trots on the bus across to the capital.”
An attempt by Somerville JCR to rechristen Thursdays at the college bar ‘Thatcher Thursdays’ has been defeated. The motion, proposed by JCR President Shyamli Badgaiyan, would have instituted two-for-one drinks on Thursdays at the college bar under the banner ‘Thatcher Thursdays,’ but the title was amended in the face of opposition from the student body.
The motion, noting the underuse of Somerville’s college bar, asserted that ‘We should do more to encourage people to come to the bar,’ and that ‘Cheaper and discounted drinks would increase business in the bar.’ Pointing to widespread ‘Happy Nights’ at other colleges, and the success of Somerville’s own Happy Hour in fresher’s week, the motion resolved to ‘mandate the President to talk to college about instituting “Thatcher Thursdays”, with cheaper or 2-for-1 drinks.’
Reaction from members of the Somerville community was not entirely positive. Recent Somerville graduate Olivia Arigho Stiles tweeted @SomervilleJCR: “WOT THE F*** WHAT IS THIS???? I implore everyone to think carefully about this please.”
When informed that the motion was simply about a drinks deal for the college bar, Stiles then responded: “ah ok that’s quite sweet. good idea! Ergo ‘Thatcher Thursday’ poor choice of name, utterly ill-suited.”
Samual Billington, Sommerville Secretary, told The OxStu: “Thatcher Thursdays’ actually passed as a motion, however the Thatcher bit was amended so that the name of the happy hour would be decided at a later date. This is the second time such a motion has been amended, and the reason given both times was the same – Thatcher is a divisive figure, and is possibly not the best choice of alumnae to name an event after, especially if you’re hoping to attract people from other colleges.”
Billington added: “ I don’t think the aim of the motion was to honour Thatcher – it was simply to come up with a catchy name for a happy hour (after the success of our first one in Freshers’ Week – which was unnamed.) Although she is definitely one of Somerville’s most famous alumnae, I agree with the JCR in the choice being misguided. Personally, I thought the suggestion of Margery Fry-days was a brilliant one. “
Mansfield’s Governing Body has banned smoking in college and Magdalen’s Health and Safety Committee is considering the same move.
Mansfield’s Bursar, Allan Dodd, sent an email to all Mansfield students saying: “Please be aware that, following a Governing Body decision on 2nd October, smoking is no longer permitted within the College grounds. This is with immediate effect.”
A student immediately emailed back, asking: “Is there any way we can appeal this decision and is there any reason that this action has been taken?”.
Dodd responded: “As for the reason, the unanimous view of GB was that smoking should be deterred on grounds of health and the unattractive nature of smokers’ detritus.”
The Bursar added: “It is also worth pointing out that with the new terrace we have a space that has to be non-smoking as it opens into an eating area, and it is therefore increasingly difficult to set boundaries for smoking and non-smoking areas, so we prefer now to restrict smoking to public areas outside the College.”
One Mansfield student told the OxStu: “I understand that smoking can cause issues but a ban is just draconian. I resent the lack of student consultation beforehand”. The OxStu understands a survey of JCR opinion might lead to a JCR motion calling for Mansfield to reconsider its decision.
Magdalen’s JCR President sent out a copy of the letter he received from the Home Bursar which stated the Health and Safety Committee is considering “a complete smoking ban on the College premises”.
The letter identifies a number of problems caused by smoking: passive smoke getting back into college buildings from external smoking areas, the unpleasant smell of smoke for those around, and the mess created by butts and subsequent blockages in drains.
The letter also cites inequality with different college, inequality between uniformed and non-uniformed staff and the lack of approved staff smoking areas as reasons to restrict smoking in college.
The Bursar emphasised that a final decision has not yet been made and that the college will consult the student body.
Student reaction has been mixed. Will Forrest, a second-year Magdalen PPEist, commented: “It’s just a really bizarre idea – during exams I bet some students smoke well more than 20 a day.
“If the ban passes they’ll be running in and out of Magdalen. For a college so concerned with our academic performance it really is biting off your nose to… well for no good reason at all to be honest”.
However, one Magdalen third-year disagreed, stating: “Smoking is an unhealthy, dirty habit that has health ramifications for fellow members of the college community. It should hardly come as a surprise to smokers that their actions should be regulated by college”.
Fabian Apel, JCR President, told the OxStu: “The College has entered initial consultation with all Common Rooms and staff to discuss the current smoking policy.
“This has become necessary primarily because of problems with the disposal of cigarette butts on the College grounds.
“In discussions so far, a ban has not been advocated by any party; so I am very optimistic that all stakeholders within the College can find an intermediate solution.”
Many colleges restrict where students can smoke but thus far Mansfield is one of the few to have fully banned it.