JCRs unite to condemn Oxford Union after cocktail scandal

first_imgChrist Church and Pembroke also both passed a motion formally condemning the cocktail virtually unanimously. Magdalen JCR’s BME rep wrote an open letter to the Union stating, “The shockingly callous response from the Union has left the members of the college horrified and we believe that it is important that the Union take a stronger stance against racism and racial oppression.”Another letter to the Union, signed by Worcester JCR’s President, Vice-President and Access and Equal Opportunities Rep, said, “We write this letter in solidarity with students of colour within the university, as we are aware of the alienating and damaging effect this could have on members of the Oxford community. We are also expressing our disapproval of the Union’s handling of these events.”At the open meeting, the Union refused to name members of bar staff responsible for producing the posters for fear of prosecution and also said that it was not allowed to publicly detail any disciplinary measures that will be taken against employees, again for legal reasons. When Merrett was asked during the meeting if she would resign as president, she gave no response.The Standing Committee went on to point out that there are weekly debate-themed cocktails, and drew comparisons to an incident in Michaelmas when there was a debate about anonymity for cases of sexual violence and a cocktail called ‘Dark Love’ was made. This was deemed “inappropriate” and vetoed by the then-President. Merrett resolved that “the Standing Committee has for too long not had control over these matters [such as the cocktail themes]. No students were involved in the making of these posters and we are looking to change this.”The President of Oxford Africa Society Simukai Chigudu stated in the meeting, “We were delighted that the Oxford Africa Conference was held here the other week; it was a gesture of goodwill and we feel the cocktail scandal has undone all of this work.”Members of Rhodes Must Fall Oxford were present at the meeting and said in a press release on Wednesday, “Rhodes Must Fall is pleased with the proceedings [of Monday]. The Oxford Union not only recognised its responsibility to address racism within itself, but also in the University and society as a whole. It further acknowledged that its initial apology was wholly inadequate failing to take into account the racist nature of the cocktail.”BME Officer Esther Odejimi resigned after the incident, commenting that she felt marginalised as the President did not consult her after Thursday’s events. Yesterday, the Union issued a statement of apology towards Odejimi and all members offended by the cocktail, as well as resolving to strengthen the mandate of the liberation officers (BME, LGBTQIA+ and Women’s officers) and to host mandatory antiracism workshops.Further motions of condemnation are expected to be proposed at Merton, Balliol and Somerville. When contacted, the Oxford Union declined to comment on the JCRs’ condemnation. The Oxford Union has been criticised in motions passed by the JCRs of at least nine colleges following the ‘Colonial Comeback’ cocktail scandal last Thursday.The Union held an open meeting on Monday morning to agree on an appropriate response, to which members of societies including Oxford University African and Caribbean Society, the Oxford University Africa Society, Rhodes Must Fall Oxford, the Oxford Pan-Afrikan Forum and the Black Students’ Union were invited to attend.The meeting was chaired by President Olivia Merrett. Treasurer Zuleyka Shahin proposed a motion declaring that the Union was institutionally racist, which was passed by the Standing Committee, the Union’s highest governing body.Meanwhile, Magdalen, Christ Church, Pembroke, New, Mansfield, Oriel, Corpus Christi, St Hilda’s and Worcester JCRs all condemned the Union’s actions publicly.Corpus JCR resolved to contact OUSU President Louis Trup to request the Union be barred from using OSSL (the student email service run by OUSU), or failing this to request a list of “complaints and offences” be circulated alongside the Union’s advertising emails, as well as organising a protest for JCR Union members.Corpus JCR President Bethany Currie told Cherwell, “Corpus JCR is appalled by the cocktail the Union served and advertised on Thursday evening… Oxford University is steeped in colonial thought and we have a duty to recognise that and actively work to dismantle it. We welcome the Union’s recognition of its institutional racism and its seeking out of racial awareness training… I hope that we all take this opportunity to raise race consciousness and awareness in our own communities as well.”Mansfield passed a similar motion condemning the Union. JCR President Luke Charters-Reid told Cherwell, “We thought that multiple attempts at apologising by the Union were inadequate because they failed to acknowledge what was actually wrong with the cocktail and the poster.”last_img

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