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University bans society that no-platformed Amber Rudd

In response to the society’s decision to no-platform Amber Rudd, the University of Oxford has deregistered UN Women Oxford UK from its affiliated societies. The society faced backlash after cancelling the International Women’s Day event hosting Rudd just 30 minutes before it was due to begin. They cancelled the event in response to student complaints about Rudd’s history in government and links to the Windrush scandal.

The decision to cancel sparked backlash from proponents of free speech, like the Free Speech Union – which sent an official complaint to the university. Governing proctors have now made the decision to de-register the society. 

According to the Daily Mail, outgoing Proctors Martin Maiden and Sophie Marnette ruled: “We have determined that the cancellation of this event was not carried out in accordance with university procedures, codes of practice and policies, in particular that of the freedom of speech.

“Therefore the society will be de-registered with the proctors. In addition, the proctors have directed the society to issue an apology to Amber Rudd.”

The decision to no-platform was criticised by the University of Oxford. In a statement from a spokesperson, the University expressed support for the proctor’s decision: “The University is strongly committed to freedom of speech and opposes no-platforming. We encourage our students to debate and engage with a range of views, and to treat others with the courtesy and dignity that they would expect themselves. The University strongly disapproved of the decision to disinvite Amber Rudd and the Proctors have taken just and proportionate action according to the policies which underpin the University’s stance on freedom of speech.”

Rudd was set to be interviewed about her role as Minister for Women and Equalities and speak about encouraging more women involved in politics. On Twitter, Rudd criticised the society and their decision as “badly judged” and “rude”.

In response to the controversy, the society halted its affiliation with UN Women UK and changed its name to United Women Oxford Student Society. On their Facebook page, the society defended their decision: 

“We would like to begin by directly apologising for our decision to invite Amber Rudd to talk at our society, in particular to the BAME students of Oxford and other communities affected by her policies. We recognise that we should have addressed this issue upon deciding whether to invite her. We stand by our decision to cancel the event and show solidarity with the BAME community. Holding the event would have been incompatible with our intention to be an inclusive and welcoming society and we cancelled it on this premise.

“We believe that the University of Oxford’s statement shows a lack of regard for the welfare of black students and we understand why students would not want to see celebrated a woman whose policies led to the deportation of members of their community.”

Image Credit to WorldSkills UK / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC-BY-2.0.

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