Oxford University has been accused of neglecting student welfare in its response to the controversial cancellation of UN Women Oxford’s ‘Amber Rudd: In Conversation’ event for International Women’s Week.
The Presidents Committee released on Wednesday an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor. The University chose this week to deregister United Women from its affiliated societies and requested that members issue an apology to Rudd. According to the Daily Mail, Proctors Martin Maiden and Sophie Marnette ruled that the cancellation of the event “was not carried out in accordance with university procedures […].”
In their letter to the Vice-Chancellor, the Presidents Committee criticises the University’s response to the issue on grounds that it lacked transparency, overlooked student consultation, and wrongly legitimated the narrative of no-platforming. They also emphasise that the response overlooked student welfare, accusing the University of prioritising its reputation over its duty of care to its students.
The letter states that the “response is characteristic of a widely felt sentiment that the University is quick to abandon its students in the face of unwarranted backlash from national newspapers and high-profile individuals.”
Among the requests of the Presidents Committee are that the University issue a public apology to its students for its response, and that the University in future commit to undertaking consultation with students before making public responses to student matters. 24 colleges have signed the letter.
The decision by UN Women Oxford to invite Amber Rudd was criticised due to Rudd’s connections to the Windrush scandal, as well as her role in propagating other policies negatively affecting minority communities. United Women stated on their Facebook page that they chose to cancel the event on the basis that “holding [it] would have been incompatible with [their] intention to be an inclusive and welcoming society.”
The cancellation stirred up controversy in the national press, which presented the issue as one of no-platforming and freedom of speech. The University tweeted that it “strongly disapprove[s]” of United Women’s decision to disinvite Amber Rudd, and that “Oxford is committed to freedom of speech & opposes no-platforming.”
United Women Oxford and the Proctors’ Office have been contacted for comment.