JCRs, MCRs and Oxford’s political societies have signaled their support for Ukraine by fundraising and releasing statements.
Oxford JCRs, MCRs and student societies have over the past week released statements condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine and declaring support for the state and people of Ukraine. Many have also donated to charities supporting Ukraine such as Ukrainian Red Cross and Save the Children Ukraine, and The Oxford Blue has learned Oxford’s political societies will be releasing a joint letter at 6 PM today.
These statements of solidarity come after this Sunday’s protest. Organised by Oxford University Ukrainian Society, it was among the largest in Oxford this year, attended by as many as a thousand people. Attendees gathered to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, to condemn the actions of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, and the violence which has so far claimed the lives of hundreds, including civilians.
During the protest, the Society invited speakers to share their experiences with the crowd. There were statements of solidarity from Polish, Syrian, and Czech and Slovak communities, among others. Some speakers took a more activist position, imploring attendees to take more direct action in their University and city communities. Among them was Sasha Mills, a third-year English student at St. Hugh’s College. Mills, whose maternal family is Ukrainian and who grew up spen[ding] a significant amount of time in Kyiv, spoke of her pain at “seeing areas [she] grew up in become warzones”, echoing similar comments by earlier Ukrainian speakers.
Speaking to the crowd, Mills singled out Oxford students, stating “[We are] all indescribably lucky to be here” and noting that students of the University enjoy unusually straightforward access to direct representation through JCR and MCR committees. Mills is the author of a JCR emergency motion template which has been circulating through Facebook in recent days. With this motion, JCR and MCR members can lobby their common room committees to “publicly publish [a] statement in solidarity with those affected by the crisis,” which “stand[s] in solidarity” with Ukraine and “condemn[s] the inaction of the UK government and their choice to not fully waive visa requirements for Ukrainians in light of the crisis.” The motion also expresses solidarity with Russian staff and students, “whom we recognise are not responsible for the crisis at hand.” It also “lobb[ies] the college administration to fly a Ukrainian flag above the college in visible support and solidarity with both students and staff affected by the crisis” and to donate to Mills’s “Oxford in support of Ukraine” JustGiving fundraiser.
Speaking to The Oxford Blue, Mills explained how the motion came into being. Owing to the fact that there are not many Ukrainians in her college, she realised that she would have to take action herself: “it needed to be me”. After writing the motion, she realised that it was “easy to do something bigger” and to “create[…] a framework” for other college JCRs to pass the motion.
The original motion mandated a donation to the fundraiser of £100. St Hilda’s JCR, among others, has pledged that amount to the “Oxford in support of Ukraine” fundraiser to aid the British Red Cross’s humanitarian response to the crisis. The donation was raised to £200 at St. Hugh’s, and to £500 at Teddy Hall. Christ Church JCR and GCR have each donated £1000 to the International Rescue Committee’s Ukraine Emergency Appeal. Further action has been taken by Mansfield JCR, which has resolved to lobby for free vacation residence for Ukrainian students.
Mills estimated that the motion had gained traction in some 15 colleges. As of the time of writing, The Oxford Blue can advance charities motions have been passed at no fewer than ten colleges, while other colleges have discussed or proposed versions of the motion, or have fundraised for other charities. At St. Catz, the motion was deemed “uncontroversial” and passed by the JCR members. At Wadham, students voted in favour of condemning the government, condemning the Russian invasion, and flying the Ukraine flag and considered raising donations as high as £1000. At Somerville, students voted to donate £1000 to various charities in support. And just last night, Magdalen students voted to increase their previous £500 donation by £1000, used to purchase items for organisations who in turn use the funds to help with providing humanitarian aid.
Not all JCRs have made such resolutions, however. Joshua Loo, Oriel JCR Secretary, told The Oxford Blue: “It’s not for me to induce people to actually move motions- on matter, including the de facto Moscow authorities’ invasion of Ukraine. I have already given notice both by email and over Facebook that any member who wishes to move a motion will be given the fullest assistance in drafting and resolving procedural questions, which service I offer to all members in any connexion.” He added, “If no member wishes to present themselves to actually move such a motion, it is not for the committee to press-gang members into moving motions the necessity of proposing which is not otherwise apparent to them.”
Oxford’s political societies have also shown support, and The Blue understands a joint letter will be published this evening, at 6 PM. The Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) will be donating all profits from 8th week Port and Policy to the British Red Cross Ukrainian Appeal. OUCA President Frankie Wright also told The Blue they “have joined in the leaders of the other political societies in co-signing and writing a letter authored by Sasha Mills condemning the invasion and expressing our sympathy for the people of Ukraine at this time.”
In addition to attending Saturday’s protests in London and Sunday’s protests in Oxford, the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) published a statement on Facebook standing “in complete solidarity with the people of Ukraine” and expressing its “extreme disappointment at Britain and Europe’s shameful and often shameless handling of this awful situation”. As well as collecting food and toiletries for Ukrainian refugees, they’ve further announced they will be donating funds from their social event Beer and Bickering to help humanitarian efforts. OULC Co-Chair Amy Fields told The Blue “We want to support the people of Ukraine in any way that we can”, confirming that OULC will sign the joint letter authored by Mills.
The Oxford University Liberal Democrats (OULD) collaborated with “What’s A Pound” by pledging to add £1 to the entry price for their Spirited Discussions event as well as a hot chocolate social, donating the funds to British Red Cross Ukrainian Crisis Appeal. It is The Blue‘s understanding OULD will also sign the joint letter to be published this evening.
Oxford SU has also indicated its support, with a statement on February 24 reading, “In light of all the events taking place in Ukraine at the moment, we’d like to extend our deepest solidarity towards Ukrainian students at the University and others who have been personally affected by all that is going on.” In a new website page, the University has assembled links to research and events examining the invasion and its wider implications and providing information for staff and students, including welfare, immigration, and financial support. They also include links to charities like the British Red Cross Ukraine Appeal.
Mills has spoken to her JCR President about raising crisis response to the level of an issue at PresCom. In addition to stressing the urgency of the crisis, Mills emphasised the importance of keeping it in the public eye through the media, telling The Blue, “I fear [this] will go out of the news cycle quickly. We need voices in the news cycle.”
As reported by Joseph Geldman, Duarte Amaro, Ben Blackburn, Aryan Goenka, and Freya Jones.
In crises of global significance, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. However, The Oxford Blue has compiled a list of suggestions of things that you can do to help.
1. Attend a protest
Protests are taking place around the UK denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Protesters are calling for measures including the imposition of tougher sanctions against Russia and an increase in medical and asylum support for Ukrainians. Taking part in a protest is a way of visibly and publicly demonstrating dissent and increasing pressure on decision-makers in parliament.
2. Donate to charities
There are many charities working in Ukraine or to help Ukrainian refugees. You can offer support by donating and encouraging student societies and bodies to donate as well. Charities to donate to include:
British Red Cross – has launched an emergency appeal to help supply Ukrainians with food, water, first aid, medicines, warm clothes, and shelter.
Sunflower of Peace – provides medical backpacks to doctors and paramedics in Ukraine to provide primary care for those who become injured or ill.
United Help Ukraine – distribute donations, food, and medical supplies to Ukrainian refugees, people impacted by the conflict, and families of those who have been killed or wounded.
UNICEF – sustaining child health and protection services; providing families with clean water, food and emergency education supplies.
3. Write to your MP
Writing to your MP allows you to lobby the government to change their policies. You can write to your MP to encourage increased efforts at diplomacy, increased sanctions, and increased measures to aid Ukrainian Refugees. Britain has not set up a route for Ukrainians to reach the UK and has stopped accepting visa applications from Ukrainians stuck in the country. This means there is no safe and legal route for Ukrainians to seek asylum in the UK. Encouraging others to write, in person or via social media, also makes it harder for MPs to ignore what constituents are saying.
4. Offer support to Ukrainian friends, family, and fellow students
This is a stressful time for everyone but especially for Ukrainians and people with family or friends in Ukraine. Reach out to those you know to check if they’re ok. Don’t make insensitive jokes or comments about the conflict; these can be hurtful and show disrespect towards those suffering.