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Oxford sees red over cash for internships
News that the upcoming Red Dress Couture Ball will be auctioning off prestigious summer internships in the name of charity has sparked controversy among aspiring lawyers and OUSU officials.
The auction will take place immediately after the Runway Show, for which tickets are priced between £40 and £300. Co-director of the event Sam Friedman, confirmed 'you can only come to the auction if you have paid for a ticket'.
The most contentious items on the auction list include a mini-pupillage with Neil Kitchener QC, a summer placement at Clintons Solicitors, and a PR-Marketing internship in Escada's London office.
Nathan Jones, OUSU Access Officer said, 'There is something deeply unfair and extremely distasteful about an auction selling off prestigious internship opportunities.
'Oxford University should be a bastion of social mobility and should support all its students in reaching their fullest potential through dedicated study and hard work.
'Endorsing an auction which allows the richest of our peers to buy themselves life-changing opportunities is utterly wrong, deeply unmeritocratic, and can only perpetuate traditional stereotypes about the institution and its students.'
Ben Lyons, Co-Founder of Intern Aware, said 'It is perverse that the money from this auction will both improve educational standards in developing countries but also increase inequality in Britain.'
A Worcester law student said, 'Even those with very good academic credentials often struggle to secure vac schemes, so this auction is grossly unfair.'
Charlotte Carnegie, a second year Law student at Wadham, echoed these sentiments. 'People should be able to get internships on their own merit, not on the bank balance of themselves or their parents. Surely firms would want the best people, not the richest people.'
Hannah Cusworth, OUSU Academic Officer, added, 'People without money will lose out as they can't afford to bid in the first place, and they wouldn't be able to support themselves through the internship.'
QC Neil Kitchener who is offering a mini-pupillage as a prize to the chief auctioneer, told Cherwell, 'The mini-pupilage offered is very much personal to me and is not part of any wider scheme operated by Chambers. I have offered to do this to help raise money for good causes.'
Sam Frieman, a co-director of the event, said, 'In repsonse to the criticism that a lot of people could be priced out by the auction, I would say ‘That's life'. The purpose of the event is to raise funds for charity.'
The Ball is taking place on Friday of 8th Week. An 'exclusive dinner' at the Cherwell Boathouse will be followed by the Runway show and auction, and a 'VIP after-party'. The event is raising funds for charities H.E.L.P. and Teach a Man To Fish.
Some students feel that throwing lavish balls is a distasteful way to raise money for charity. A law finalist said, 'These charity fashion balls are an exercise in self-righteous self-aggrandisement by a self proclaimed self-obsessed social elite. The closest they have ever come to poverty is not knowing where their next latte is coming from.'