A joint event between OUCA and the UCL Conservative Association last Sunday resulted in a student being banned from future events, following sexist remarks made against a member of OUCA.
Vitus Van Rij, a student at Kings College London who had come to the event with members of UCL, chanted “kitchen, kitchen, kitchen” while one female member was speaking.
He also told her to “get back to the dishes”.
Students from University College London had been invited to OUCA’s weekly Port & Policy, which is held in Oxford Union rooms.
Tara Burton, a second year Theology student, was speaking in favour of the motion “This house believes that comprehensive schools have been a comprehensive failure.”
She was interrupted by Van Rij despite several calls from Max Lewis, the Political Officer, for quiet.
“Within two sentences this guy said, ‘Shush, you’re a woman’. Half way through he said ‘Get back to the dishes love’, and by the end he was chanting ‘kitchen, kitchen, kitchen'” said David Thomas, a member of the association.
Jocky McLean, another OUCA member who was present at the event, said the guest was “clearly dismissive” and “started getting louder and louder in an attempt to shut her up.”
“He started saying loudly, and then shouting pretty manically, ‘Kitchen! Kitchen!’. It was completely disgusting behaviour.”
“When Tara Burton finished, Jocky McLean and I stood up and shouted at him, we demanded he apologise. He didn’t, he just walked out,” Thomas said.
According to Natalie Shina, OUCA president, the President of the UCL Conservative Association later ejected Van Rij. When first approached for comment, Shina denied knowledge of the incident, claiming in an e-mail that she had not heard anything offensive said.
Later however, she acknowledged that the comments had been made.
Burton, who heard of the heckling after she had finished her speech, was said to have been “highly offended by Van Rij’s comments”.
An OUCA member present at the event said that Nick Gallagher, who was implicated in the race-related scandal that had OUCA disaffiliated from the University last year, “had a go at Thomas and McLean for attacking free speech, and said they had a ‘16th century attitude to humour’. Max Lewis tried to chuck him out but he refused to go.”
Another student present said that “emotions seemed to be running fairly high”.
Although Nick Gallagher officially resigned his membership following the row over racist hustings last year, he is still allowed to attend and speak at Port & Policy.
As a Union member he is allowed on the premises where Port & Policy is held, and can regularly attend the meetings at the discretion of the OUCA president.
Gallagher was contacted by Cherwell but declined to comment.
A Facebook profile in Van Rij’s name listed a call for “preservation of the white man and his state” as one of his ‘Favourite Quotations’. The quote is from pro-Apartheid South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, but was removed not long after the event.
According to eyewitnesses, Van Rij later tried to “seduce” Tara Burton, attempting to kiss her ten minutes after he had interrupted her speech.
Laura Winwood, president of the Oxford Union, then went to the front of the room with OUCA President Natalie Shina and stated that misogyny was not tolerated by either OUCA or the Union, and asked the room if anyone had a problem with women and in particular with female leadership
Then debate continued after the president of the UCL Conservatives apologized. “Members of OUCA responded quickly against him. Laura asked him to leave” said McLean. “Max Lewis pointed out that it was unacceptable behaviour.”
“From OUCA’s point of view it was bad luck” says Thomas. “It’s bad for OUCA that no one did anything. I’ve been to some events before and never seen anything like this.”
“At the end of the day, the joke was on him when myself and Natalie went to the front of the room and made it quite clear that there was no place for his views in either OUCA or The Oxford Union.”
William Hall, the president of UCL Conservatives, said that “UCLU Conservatives has banned this individual from future events and he was asked to leave immediately following his comments.”
This event coincides with OUCA celebrating its re-affiliation with the University. Shina confirmed that “last week OUCA re-affiliated with the University following a meeting with the Senior Proctor and the approval of the Vice-Chancellor.”
OUCA had the right to use the University’s name in its title removed and was not allowed a stall at this year’s Fresher’s Fair, following allegations that members participated in the telling of racist jokes at hustings.
Alistair Strathern, Co-Chair of the OULC, said that “while OUCA have now been granted re-affiliation with the university, history would suggest that it will not be long before the next controversy arises that undermines both their right to bear the University’s name and their legitimacy as a credible political society.”
When contacted about the state of OUCA’s re-affiliation, a spokesperson from the University Press Office said the Proctors “have satisfied themselves each term that OCA was operating satisfactorily.”
According to the University Press Office, since OUCA has satisfied the Proctors for the minimum period of two terms on the Register, it was entitled under the Regulations to re-apply for permission to use the Oxford University name.
When contacted about the recent events of the Port & Policy meeting, the Press Office declined to comment on whether the University would now review its decision to allow OUCA the use of the “U” in its name.