St Cross students petition to debate holding abortion debate

first_imgAt the time of writing, the petition had 41 supporters on the change.org website, needing only 17 more to call an extraordinary SA meeting to debate the motion.St Cross’s Kristen Nicole told Cherwell, “At the moment, the conversation is being controlled in such a way as to conflate the propagation of anti-human rights views with that of freedom of speech — the petition is not about the protection of freedom of speech. At best, it is a specious attempt to garner publicity. At worst, it is using the guise of ‘free speech’ to advance an agenda that at its core seeks to reduce women’s autonomy. Women’s fundamental rights are not up for debate.”Niamh Mcintyre, co-Editor of Cuntry Living and author of a piece in The Independent which condemned the original debate, said, “Myself and hundreds of other students strongly objected to the loaded terms of the debate, which presupposed our society’s ‘abortion culture’. While I’m glad that St Cross students have attempted to address this objection, I’m very concerned that they haven’t yet addressed our other fundamental objection, the exclusion of people with uteruses from a debate about their bodily autonomy. Until OSFL includes people with relevant lived experience, many of us at Oxford will continue to be angry.”Similarly, a student at St Cross, commented, “Wasn’t one of the main problems with this debate the fact that two cis-gender men debating women’s issues is basically irrelevant? Have a different debate — not the absolute shite that OSFL wanted to put on, but a debate that could actually be constructive and beneficial and open, instead of male dominated and toxically worded. I am not arguing that we should never debate anything controversial, but that this particular debate, with its absurdly warped phrasing and all-male panel, was an absolute clusterfuck.”However, St Cross student Wybo Wiesma disagreed, commenting, “Unless you believe Oxford students to be irrational or weak-minded, there is no harm in exposing them to views for which barely a case can be made. Wanting to stop such a debate is either paternalism or indicates that you’d actually think they have a case and might win if allowed to speak. Both of these motives should not be allowed to determine the agenda at a university in a free country.”Ana Bobic, also of St Cross, was, however, quick to make the distinction between prohibiting “free speech” and not giving someone a “platform”. She explained, “Academic institutions especially have the responsibility when giving platform. I cannot imagine what consequences for its reputation a debate hosted by the University with a motion ‘The LGBT culture in the UK hurts us all’ would have. The College has a responsibility to all its members, as well as to the broader public (as it is a public institution) as regards its choice to give or not to give a voice to. I don’t feel it is an obligation of this institution to grant this to everyone automatically. And this, let me remind you, is NOT infringing his or her freedom of speech, it is only denying the platform. Everyone is entitled to free speech in public and not to be prosecuted for it, everyone is entitled to shout as much as they like about anything, but there is no obligation on academic institutions to provide a microphone for it.”Other students questioned the point of holding the debate now that O’Neill and Stanley’s speeches have been published. In response, the three proposers of the motion insisted, “We would like the opportunity to hear them defend their views against each other, and against contributions from the floor. Given the clear diversity, and passion, of opinion around this matter, we think that a meeting of the Students to discuss, in person, their respective views could only be beneficial.” St Cross students have set up a petition calling for a special meeting of their Student Association to debate the possibility of holding the canceled OSFL abortion debate at St Cross.The original debate, entitled, “This House believes Britain’s Abortion Culture Hurts Us All”, was cancelled after Christ Church rescinded permission for OSFL to use the College’s premises. The prospective speakers Brendan O’Neill and Tim Stanley, both columnists for the Telegraph, have each written in protest at the events of last week.Petitioners at St Cross would invite OSFL to hold their cancelled debate in the college under the new title, “Is there an ‘Abortion Culture?”. If the petition reaches its target, this motion will be debated at an extraordinary Student Association meeting.The proponents of the petition, Jacob Reynolds, Matthew Kruger, and Zac Gross, told Cherwell, “We all believe strongly in a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion.“At a recent St Cross Student Representative Committee meeting, a motion was proposed to hold an extraordinary Student Association meeting to discuss, given recent events, holding a debate on issues around abortion. The motion received ten votes in favour and four against, which, given the 75 per cent requirement for calling an extraordinary meeting, meant it failed to pass. Given the margin, we decided that it would be appropriate to afford the student body a say at a Student Association meeting, for which a petition is required.“Our initiation of this petition should not be construed as supporting OSFL, or the original debate’s terms. Rather, we believe this issue should be decided by the whole student body.”The Student Association normally only meets once a term. Çinar Baymul, President of the St Cross Student Representative Committee, explained, “Petitions to call extraordinary SA meetings are not a usual occurrence. My personal opinion, based on the precedent and the student reaction so far, is that it is unlikely that the OSFL debate will be held in St Cross.”last_img read more