Christ Church has refused permission to Oxford Students for Life (OSFL) to hold a controversial ‘Abortion Culture’ debate in the college’s Blue Boar Lecture Theatre, after the JCR voted to inform College Censors about the mental and physical security issues surrounding the debate.
In an email, JCR President Louise Revell told students, “Lottie (Richie, JCR Vice President), Gabriel (Henry, JCR Secretary) and I met with the censors earlier today and were informed that permission has not been given to OSFL to host their event in the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre tomorrow.
“The reason is that there was insufficient time between today and tomorrow to address some concerns they had about the meeting arising from potential security and welfare issues, such as those discussed at last night’s GM.”
The debate, originally planned for Tuesday at 7.30pm and leading with the motion “This House believes Britain’s Abortion Culture Hurts Us All”, was set to feature historian Tim Stanley proposing the motion, and Spiked Editor and Big Issue Columnist Brendan O’Neill opposing.
JCR Treasurer Will Neaverson, who proposed a JCR motion on Sunday night’s GM, argued that the debate was now a security issue, as over 250 people were at the time said to be attending a protest against the debate.
The motion, which originally requested the College Censors to rescind their permission to use the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre, was subsequently amended to mandate the JCR president, Vice President and Secretary to raise the issue in their meeting with the Junior and Senior Censors today. It was passed by fifty seven votes to nineteen, with five abstentions.
The planned protest, organised through a Facebook page entitled “What the fuck is ‘abortion culture'”, now lists over 330 people as attending.
Neaverson told Cherwell, “I’m relieved the Censors have made this decision. It clearly makes the most sense for the safety – both physical and mental – of the students who live and work in Christ Church. I’m glad the views of the GM were well represented and well received.”
After they were refused permission to use the theatre, OSFL President Dan Hitchens told Cherwell, “The debate will be going ahead, but not at Christ Church tomorrow because of security issues due to the planned protest. We are currently looking for an alternative venue. If we haven’t found one by four o’clock tomorrow, we will arrange a new date.
“We are heartened by the support throughout the University for our right to free expression. Sadly, there are some extreme voices who don’t believe that Oxford should welcome open debate. We will continue to campaign and to encourage an amicable conversation on life issues. We’d like to reiterate our offer to WomCam to co-host a debate next term.”
OxRev Fems – the organisers of the protest – are welcoming suggestions for an “alternative event” to replace the debate.
They posted on the protest group, “We are still organising a fundraiser/discussion to happen at that time.
“To simply shut down this event does not achieve much in the scale of things. However, if we can translate it into a discussion about the many issues currently surrounding abortion and a fundraiser for those who need access to it we can something positive.”