Tom Rutland joins NUS condemnation of UKIP

Tom Rutland joins NUS condemnation of UKIP

The National Union of Students has expressed its formal opposition to UKIP after a motion at their annual conference was passed – with the help of OUSU President Tom Rutland.

A motion concerning NUS strategy in the run-up to the 2015 general election was amended with a proposal raising alarm at the “electoral rise of a respectable nationalist right, including UKIP.” 

The amendment resolved that the NUS “must fight the idea there is a problem with immigration. Strain on jobs and services is a result of the government and private sector cuts…withdrawal from the EU would not solve these problems.” The passage of both the amendment and the motion means that “opposition to UKIP and the nationalist right” will be “a central part of [NUS] campaigning in the run up to the general election.” 

OUSU President Tom Rutland voted in support of the amendment. He said on Facebook: “International students make up 50% of [Oxford's] student body – and are facing ever-increasing checks on their immigration status, as well as charges to use the NHS, in the race to the bottom on ‘who can be toughest on immigration’. We have a responsibility to combat the politics that endanger our students.”

He denied, however, that the motion’s opposition to UKIP was primarily concerned with their stance on the EU. Rather, he argued: “It’s about the racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism that runs through the party.” 

“I’ve read a lot about the importance of NUS being an inclusive environment for students. I couldn’t agree more: let’s stand up against parties that spread fear and hate about oppressed groups in society, and make sure we’re protecting the students who are most likely to face oppression and discrimination – women, LGBT, BME, disabled and international students.”

The motion has come under attack by those who feel it goes beyond the scope of the NUS. NUS Delegate and former OUCA President Jack Matthews told the OxStu: “I went to the NUS Conference to represent the students of Oxford, some of whom are UKIP members and voters. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I will not write-off these students.” 

“The NUS should absolutely stand up to discrimination – but let’s focus on the people who perpetrate these crimes, rather than organisations convicted by conjecture. Its time the NUS talked more about our education, and less about cheap political statements that unnecessarily divide the student body.” 

UKIP activists amongst Oxford’s student body have likewise criticized the motion as evidence of NUS’ political partisanship.

Max Jewell, an undergraduate at Queen’s, said: “I honestly couldn’t care less about what a group of self-righteous ideologues think about UKIP. UKIP might not reflect the views of the NUS but Tom Rutland doesn’t represent the views of students.” 

“Opposition to mass immigration is a legitimate view and I’ll continue to hold and espouse it even if I end up as the subject of the next Rad-Cam/white-board photo-shoot,” he added.

Undergraduate Jane Cahill, however, rejected that the motion was unrelated to the interests of students and their education: “UKIP wants to scrap tuition fees, but then fund that by dramatically cutting levels of university participation so we can go back to the good old days when only people like Nigel Farage went to university. Even if you don’t think the NUS should be speaking out against discriminatory policies, opposing UKIP is perfectly consistent with promoting education policies that benefit students in the UK, and I’m glad they did it.” 

The annual NUS conference brings together delegates from the students’ unions of affiliated universities, and was this year held in Liverpool. Oxford students will be able to vote this term on whether OUSU should remain one of the 600 affiliated unions.


Whitewash failure for Oxford candidates at NUS Conference

Whitewash failure for Oxford candidates at NUS Conference

Nathan Akehurst, the only Oxford candidate in the NUS Conference elections, failed to win a seat in the ‘Block of 15’.

 Akehurst, a third-year History student at Lincoln, said he was “not altogether disappointed”.

 “Block was full of good candidates this year with more people than usual standing, so I’m not altogether disappointed.”

 “I still think it’s a shame that the National Executive is only elected by a few hundred delegates,” he added.

 Tom Rutland, OUSU President, praised the NUS for what he perceives to be its benefits to students.

 “Students don’t need to be elected to NUS positions to get something out of membership – whether it’s a strong national voice for students or saving hundreds of pounds with an NUS Extra Card, everyone has something to gain through NUS membership,” he said.

 At the earlier NUS Disabled Students’ Conference, Teddy Hall fresher James Elliot won a place on the Disabled Students Committee and NUS National Executive Council.

 Elliot welcomed his chance to “voice an alternative strategy for NUS as a more radical, grassroots-led campaigning organisation, one that sticks up for all students and defends an education system that ought to be free, public and democratic”.

 Elliot continued: “The NUS NEC hasn’t always made the right calls in the past, and I pledge to be a transparent representative for both the Disabled Students Campaign and students in Oxford, letting you know when meetings are coming up, and canvassing thoughts on policy.”

 NUS Conference involved 1,000 delegates voting for motions including opposition to privatisation of student loans, opposition to UKIP and support for the UCU’s marking boycott.

 Despite the lack of Oxford electoral victories, Rutland claimed Conference “was excellent.”

“We’ve set priorities on a plethora of issues facing students: tackling dodgy landlords and letting agents, reforming curriculums and assessment to make sure that they get students the best education possible and improving access to postgraduate education.”

 “In conjunction with local student unions, NUS is making sure that students aren’t taken for a ride and that they will be a force to contend with at the next general election,” he added.

“Terrific” Somerville team lose out on Uni Challenge title

“Terrific” Somerville team lose out on Uni Challenge title

The team from Somerville has been pipped at the post in the grand final of TV quiz show University Challenge, ending on 135 points to Trinity College, Cambridge’s 240.

Host Jeremy Paxman said at the end of the show that both sides were “terrific teams”, and author Jeanette Winterson – who presented the trophy to Trinity, Cambridge at the end – echoed this sentiment.

The side performed strongly at some points in the final, and scored a full three out of three on a set of questions on famous quotes about wealth and riches. They only managed one out of three, however, on a series of questions on Greek words.

Trinity, Cambridge maintained a narrow lead for almost the whole episode, surging ahead only at the end. The Somerville team featured students Sam Walker, Zachary Vermeer and Chris Beer, while PPEist Michael Davies was captain.

Prior to the show, they all told an article on the college’s website what their proudest moment on the series was so far. Vermeer said his was the successful identification of a piece of opera from Verdi’s “La Traviata”, while Beer said his was their defeat of Southampton University.

Somerville students and alumni reacted with sympathy on Twitter:

The event was screened in Somerville’s bar, with some of the team members photographed watching the show as it was broadcast:

Among others, Somerville has defeated teams from the University of York and London-based institution SOAS. Trinity, Cambridge reached the final after defeating the University of Manchester, and they also defeated Christ Church, Oxford, in the first round.

The series has seen many interesting twists for the Somerville side, especially for Michael Davies, who was described as “delightful” on Twitter by broadcaster Stephen Fry.

The show came under fire this week, however, after the academic Professor Mary Beard expressed disappointment that there were no women on Somerville’s team. Both teams in tonight’s final were all male.

Victory for Oxford in the Boat Race – LIVE

Victory for Oxford in the Boat Race – LIVE

The Boat Race 2014: Liveblog

18.35: The Oxford side has collected the trophy. And on that note, it’s time to say goodbye to the liveblog for another year. Thanks for sticking with the OxStu, and congratulations to the team!

18.32: The losing Cambridge side collect their medals:

18.27: Not much magnanimity from the Oxford students with our News Editor Jacob Lee in Hammersmith. However, there’s a bit of a strange feeling among the crowds rather than full-on elation, probably due to the oar incident.

Malcolm Howard, President of OUBC, is interviewed for TV and claims he is “proud” while also expressing some sympathy for the losing Cambridge team. Oxford rower Constantine Louloudis says the river “is running dark blue”. The Cambridge rower involved in the clash says it “is part of the race”, but thinks team members should “keep your held high and move on”. Coming up soon will be the famous tradition of throwing the winning cox into the river, as well as the presentation of the trophy.

18.20: PROTEST NOT UPHELD: Cambridge were out of their water, not Oxford, meaning the oar clash will not affect the race’s result.

18.18: VICTORY FOR OXFORD. However, umpire Richard Phelps has raised his red flag, meaning there is definitely a protest from Cambridge. The cox for the Tab team is speaking to Phelps now.

18.16: Looks like it will be a similar margin of victory for Oxford in the main race as it was in the Isis vs Goldie reserves race an hour or so ago – probably of around 10 lengths at least. Cambridge cox shouts: “Fight to the end”.

18.13: Around three minutes to go as they approach Barnes Bridge. Oxford’s victory is certain now, as they are far ahead. The real drama could come afterwards if there is an appeal by the Cambridge squad for that oar contact, but they now look like they are resigned to a certain fate.

18.11: The look of determination on the faces of members of both squads is a testament to the grit and determination of Oxbridge rowers. Oxford’s lead is still as strong. The BBC, meanwhile, has confirmed there was contact between the two oars a few moments ago. Cambridge could appeal or protest after the race, but it depends if Oxford was in the correct area of water at the time. Decision up to the umpire.

18.07: Jacob is with a large group of Oxford students as they approach halfway point at Chiswick Bridge. The atmosphere is “euphoric” as Oxford have a very clear lead.

18.04: Serious blow to Cambridge after what appears to be a clash of oars. Cambridge has fallen back quite far, giving Oxford a serious lead.

18.02: The lead is still with Oxford despite the fact that Cambridge had the advantage on the first (“Middlesex”) bend around the Fulham area. Oxford have the advantage of the next bend at Hammersmith Bridge.

17.57: They have begun! Around two minutes late due to objections from the coxes. Oxford have the advantage at the outset.

17.50: Storm Uru – on the Oxford squad – is a fantastic name. Apparently named because his father was a sailor in a storm, and he vowed to call his first son “Storm” if he survived. Luckily for Oxford, he did. Five minutes to go.

17.41: ISIS WIN THE RESERVES RACE: In Jacob’s words, Oxford’s reserves have “nailed” Cambridge in the Isis vs Goldie race.

Meanwhile, Max Bray – a fresher History student at Somerville – had more sage sartorial analysis: “It’s refreshing to see a paucity of light blue scarves on show”.

17.31: Natalie, a spectator on the banks, says: “It’s a lovely atmosphere. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with old friends, and there is a great British sense of occasion”.

Meanwhile, one of these dancing sailors – Crispin – says he’s “not really bothered about the boat race, we just like singing and dancing”.

There’s only 20 minutes to go until the race starts!

17.16: The crews are now heading off to do a warm-up. Now that they are out, things are obviously becoming a bit more tense among the spectators. From Jacob:

17.12: The squads are now walking down what is essentially a catwalk from the boathouse to the river. Brasenose student Tom Watson got a particularly strong cheer from the crowd. Cambridge rower Ivo Dawkins looked slightly nervous as he stepped into his boat: it’s no surprise, considering his father’s boat sank when he participated in the race several decades ago.

17.06: Our News Editor Jacob Lee is down by the river:

Meanwhile, the main teams are currently taking their boats down to the river! A quick summary of what time everything else is going down over the next hour – at 17.25 we’ll be watching the Isis vs. Goldie reserves race, followed by the main race exactly half an hour later at 17.55.

16.57: The OxStu’s Music Editor Jake Downs has some wise words for whoever sourced Cambridge’s kit:

16.50: The reserves teams are heading out now, with Goldie (Cambridge) going first. Isis (Oxford, obviously) have also made their way onto the river:

16.38: Clare Balding (one of my utter faves) is now kicking off her coverage on BBC1. She has had a very busy weekend, having covered the Grand National at Aintree yesterday. Meanwhile, WEATHER FORECAST: the temperature in Putney is around 16 degrees, while light rain is forecast for 6pm. Wind speeds of 15mph are estimated, which hopefully won’t pose problems.

16.33: It’s estimated there will be almost 250,000 people on the banks of the Thames today, and Putney is certainly looking busy at the moment.

16.22: Our friends over at The Cambridge Student have some insight into why teams choose the stations they do after the coin toss.

16.16: We’re delighted to have Alexander Fox (whom you might recognise as the presenter of Shark Tales, a video feature for some other Oxford newspaper) in charge of the OxStu Sport Twitter feed today as the Varsity football match goes on:

16.09: COIN TOSS: the first team coin toss has gone to Oxford, who have also picked the Surrey station. It might be a small victory, but it bodes well…

16.04: A bit on the geographical area where the race will take place: the squads power down a part of The Tideway, a stretch of the Thames in central London, and will cruise past the suburbs of Chiswick and Hammersmith (where our News Editor Jacob Lee will be picking up a bit later). The Tideway is essentially just the part of the river which experiences tides (self-explanatory, really – that wasn’t an insult to Oxbridge’s collective intelligence). Remember to let us know what you are doing today for the Boat Race. Give us a tweet @TheOxStu or email!

16.00: The second teams of both squads – Isis (Oxford) and Goldie (Cambridge) – race half an hour before the main teams. They’ve just had their coin toss:

15.56: In around ten minutes time there will be a coin toss between the Presidents of each boat club to decide which squad gets which station. They will supposedly use an 1829 sovereign coin in a nod to the year the Boat Race began, and speaking of which, here’s a delightful little website full of stats and cute graphics to keep you entertained:

15.43: The Boat Race might be fast-paced and energetic, but today is no day to neglect the spiritual, thoughtful side of life. Thankfully, “Older People’s Day” is there to keep us reminded:

15.34: The Boat Race has a history stretching longer than any of us have been alive: Oxford has won the annual event 77 times, while Cambridge has clinched the title on 81 occasions. This is the 160th race, and any eagle eyes out there will notice that 77 plus 81 in fact leaves one year unaccounted for  – this is because there was a dead heat in 1877. Legend has it that it was only declared this way because the umpire fell asleep under a tree, although he claimed that he was wide awake and that the tips of the boats passed the finish line at exactly the same time.

15.15: Lots of areas around the riverbank in London are closed, much to the chagrin of this tweeter. His kid, however, doesn’t seem all that bothered:

15.08: The race is being sponsored by financial giant BNY Mellon, which has launched a bizarre little website which attempts to find out which side you should be cheering on through a quick quiz. Asking fans to choose between Nigella Lawson and Carol Vorderman is probably not the most perceptive way of doing this, and readers of this blog probably already have a chosen side, but if you’re short on cash there is a £10,000 prize at stake so get on it:

15.00: Hello and welcome to the OxStu’s coverage of the 160th annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge. Behind the blog is Editor-in-Chief Nick Toner (@nick_toner), while intrepid News Editor Jacob Lee will be bringing us the latest happenings on the banks in London. We’ll be here for the next few hours keeping you up-to-date with events and gossip from the race, so stick with us. Tweet us @TheOxStu or email to feature in the blog – we’d love to hear from you! Meanwhile, if you just can’t get enough of live action sport, check out Associate Editor Miles Dilworth’s live coverage of today’s other big match – the Varsity football – here.

Somerville team make it to TV quiz show final

Somerville team make it to TV quiz show final

A team from Somerville has sailed through to the final of TV quiz show University Challenge, defeating London university SOAS by 85 points.

The team is captained by PPE student Michael Davies, alongside students Sam Walker, Zac Vermeer and Chris Beer. Their semi-final victory was broadcast on BBC2 on Monday evening.

They fielded questions on a variety of topics, and achieved a trio of correct answers on painter Ford Madox Brown and two out of three on the topic of squirrels in literature.

At the outset they appeared to be struggling, with SOAS on 55 points to Somerville’s -10 at around ten minutes in. They quickly recovered to win their place in the final, which will see them pitted against Trinity College, Cambridge.

The team received a positive reaction on Twitter. OUSU President Tom Rutland said: “Cheering on ex @ousunews officer @mjdavi3s on #universitychallenge”.

TV presenter Nigel May, however, took a different angle. He posted: “Davies on #universitychallenge looks like a jolly little chap. I imagine he giggles in bed…”

The final will be broadcast on BBC2 at 8pm next Monday.

Oxford fresher to run for European Parliament

Oxford fresher to run for European Parliament

Oxford’s political scene jumped to the next level recently when a Christ Church fresher announced he is set to run for the European Parliament.

Jan Nedvídek, who studies PPE, is running as an MEP for the Czech party ODS, known as the Civic Democratic Party in English. Nedvideck is also the current OUCA Political Officer.

The ODS is a centre-right Eurosceptic party, and is a relatively substantial force in Czech politics as it holds 15 seats in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. It currently has 9 MEPs.

When asked why he wanted to run, he said: “So many people complain about the fact that the EU is so far away from us, and that it doesn’t consider the views of the ordinary voters. I was fed up with this kind of talk: what’s the point in complaining if you’re not ready to get up and do something about it?”

“The EU can only be made more efficient and representative if people who work in it want to make it such: and this is why, when the party HQs rang me, I only took a minute to consider their offer.”

Jan castigated the EU as being “ruled by an elite which is led by an integrationist, federalist ideology rather than political pragmatism” and insisted “the parliamentarians in Brussels need to be replaced by people who use their common sense instead of ideology to make decisions”.

“The UK and my own country (the Czech Republic) are both better off in than out, and that is why I reject all efforts to withdraw from the Union.”

Nedvídek conceded he is unlikely to win his election due to the party list system used in European elections. He is placed last on the ODS’ list, so victory for him would require 100% of the electorate to vote for the party.

“As we don’t live under the communist regime anymore, this is not very probable,” he said. “Consequently, I’m not very likely to win this time: however, I shall do my best to make sure that my party gets all the votes it possibly can and wins the election!”

Nedvídek, who was appointed OUCA Political Officer after a disputed election, was congratulated by the official OUCA Twitter account.

Student leaders claim “We Are All Oxford” is “misguided” and “unacceptable” as parody accounts run wild

Student leaders claim “We Are All Oxford” is “misguided” and “unacceptable” as parody accounts run wild

Leaders of OUSU and the African and Caribbean Society last night criticised “We are all Oxford” (WAAO).

Tom Rutland, OUSU President, claimed the project was “misguided” and admitted that a Facebook link an OUSU officer made to the page last week was a mistake.

Similarly, ACS president Hope Levy-Shepherd critiqued the project as “well-meaning” but “unacceptable”.

Rutland, who is about to begin his final academic term as President, admitted to The Oxford Student that the “We Are All Oxford” Tumblr “should not have been linked to originally” and that the link “has since been taken down”.

Rutland stated: “My view is that the “We Are All Oxford” tumblr is misguided (if probably well-intentioned), and that denying experiences of racism is not the correct way to improve access to the university.”

“We cannot put the two aims of eradicating racism and improving access at odds with one another – the sources of both must be tackled,” he added.

On Friday the OUSU Facebook page shared the WAAO Tumblr under the heading: “Some great stuff”.

ACS President Hope Levy-Shepherd said it was her own personal view that WAAO had the potential to “delegitimise personal experience”.

Levy-Shepherd, who stressed that her own perspective cannot represent the feelings of ACS as a whole, stated that: “WAAO may have had well-meaning intentions, but the actual execution of the project was unacceptable.”

Levy-Shepherd explained: “It is my understanding that WAAO was on a mission to protect the image of the “University ethos”, which explains a lot of the boards being interpreted as propaganda.”

“Pointing out that certain measures [such as equalities reps] exist simply isn’t the same as saying that they are effective.”

“The seeming attempt to delegitimise personal experience through a regurgitation of university facts and figures appeared to me a conscious attempt to stifle constructive dialogue”, she added.

The controversy began when WAAO was launched in response to “I, too, am Oxford”, based on a similar campaign in the United States.

The Oxford version has been featured in national publications such as The Guardian and The Independent.

A BME Law student at Mansfield, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed with Levy-Shepherd, commenting that: WAAO “ended up asserting that “all’s well at Oxford” over ITAO’s “we have genuine issues and feel pain”.”

The lawyer continued: “WAAO rolled out the usual lines about access and embracing diversity that you’ll find in any prospectus but that have no bearing on individual BME students’ experiences.”

The accounts have been subject to several parody accounts in recent days. “We Are All Oxford” has been parodied by “We Are All Awful”, while this morning “I, too, am Oxford” was hit by the spoof “I, too, am whiteboard”.

This second parody features pictures of students pointing at whiteboards containing famous quotes adapted for humorous effect.

Access has been a key issue in the controversy. Levy-Shepherd also pointed out that the original WAAO’s “reference to Oxford Access schemes, funds and outreach projects for low income households and state school students missed the point of ITAO entirely and failed to engage with the relevant issues regarding race and ethnicity that were the focus of the original.”

Levy-Shepherd explained: “It goes without saying that not every student of BME origin at Oxford comes from a low-income household and/or a state school: I am still confused as to why WAAO sought to conflate those issues in the context of this campaign. Not being the victim of prejudice because I went to a state school doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t be a victim of prejudice because I am black.”

The co-chair of the Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE), Anne Meeker, said: “The students featured in the [original ITAO] campaign constructively and eloquently highlight facets of the Oxford experience that often go ignored, and do so in a manner that is brave and beautiful.”

Meeker, and her fellow students at CRAE, hoped that discussions of these recent anti-racsim Tumblr accounts,  “will lead to greater awareness of [the] issues [raised], and how they have been addressed in the past, that will lead to a student commitment to rectifying them.”

“We will only see positive, constructive action if all contributions to the debate are civil, respectful, and open-minded – dismissing anyone’s experience will not achieve this goal, and we hope this is a sentiment shared by everyone who chooses to get involved,” she added.

Kellogg College accused of age discrimination

Kellogg College accused of age discrimination

An ex-employee of Kellogg College is suing Oxford University for age discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Catriona Carter Jonas, 53, told Reading Tribunal Centre last week that she suffered “nasty treatment” from her superiors at Kellogg, causing her to “cry herself to sleep”. She stated that the college’s former bursar once described her as a “wrinkly old bag”.

Ms Carter Jonas was employed by Kellogg between 2007 and 2013, resigning last March following eight months of sick leave.

Ms Carter Jonas claims the college’s current domestic bursar, Donna Lipsky (who was appointed in January 2012) attempted to “manage me out”, allegedly increasing her workload by 80% with no recognition.

“I was depressed and would cry myself to sleep most nights. I was suffering from regular panic attacks”, Ms Carter Jonas told the tribunal.

The former events co-ordinator claims that on one occasion, when walking past Mrs Lipsky’s office, she overheard the bursar telling a colleague that they “need someone cheaper, younger, stronger.” Ms Carter Jonas was taken to disciplinary hearings in 2011 and 2012, before lodging a formal grievance.

The employment tribunal also heard evidence from another former Kellogg employee Keith Fraser last week, who told Judge Robin Lewis that Lipsky had driven a “culture of bullying” at the college.

Mr Fraser claims that Mrs Lipsky’s behaviour resembled that of an “alpha-personality”, with the bursar allegedly shoving Kellogg chaplain Reverend Robin Gibbons out of an office and causing a door to slam in his face.

Alice Carse, representing the University, told the tribunal that Jonas was “making something out of nothing”, listing concerns over her work management and ability to follow instructions. Ms Carse also told Judge Robin Lewis that Fraser is simply bitter as he was not given Mrs Lipsky’s permanent role.

Neither Kellogg College nor its current bursar, Mrs Lipsky, responded to a request for comment.

The case at Reading Tribunal Centre continues.

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