Assange Settles For Second Best

The WikiLeaks founder is set to speak at Oxford this month, but the Cambridge Union decides not to risk more ‘technical problems’.

assange Cambridge debate ecuador embassy JCR oxford union technical problems wikileaks women's campaign

Julian Assange is set to speak via videolink at the Oxford Union later this month.  He will be speaking at the ceremony for the Sam Adams Award, a prize given for integrity in the field of Intelligence.

This comes after Assange’s talk at the Cambridge Union was cancelled last term in somewhat dubious circumstances.

When contacted for comment, the Cambridge Union gave the following statement:

“The Cambridge Union would like to take this opportunity to inform its members that we declined the opportunity to have Mr Assange speak to Union members this term due to his withdrawal from a commitment last term.

Last term Mr Assange was due to address our members via video link from the Ecudorian embassy but stated that he had to withdraw from this engagement due to technical problems with the videolink.

As stated at the time, we were disappointed to subsequently learn that Mr Assange completed another engagement, via videolink, on the same evening he was scheduled to speak to our members.

We therefore decided not to accept Mr Assange’s offer to re-arrange his talk for this term, as we could not be sure that the event would not once again be cancelled, and were unwilling to risk the disappointment of our members for a second time.”

The Oxford Union justified their decision in this statement: “Mr Assange is a thinker and activist who has made significant contributions to the debate on government transparency. It is hoped that institutional corruption, whistleblowing and freedom of speech can all be discussed without in any way sanctioning or condoning his alleged private actions.”

The CUSU Women’s Campaign was in strong opposition to Assange’s talk at the Cambridge Union, and the backlash in Oxford has been similar.

Cambridge reject

Oxford students are planning two protests against Assange’s appearance at the Union. Simone Webb, head of the Oxford LGBTQ Society, is leading a protest at the Union. A joint protest will take place outside the Ecuadorian embassy at the same time. The Facebook event claims the protest ‘is not advocating a blanket no-platform policy on Assange, but suggesting that the Union should not have offered him this particular opportunity’.

JCR Presidents in Oxford have received an email urging them to oppose Assange’s invitation. It asks them to encourage people to boycott the event and to sign a letter in opposition to be sent to the Oxford Union.

In the email, Abigail Burman (Equal Opportunities Officer at Corpus Christi College, Oxford) suggests that, “The invitation sends the signal that rape and sexual assault don’t really matter, perpetrators will be supported, and survivors will be vilified.”

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong sense of deja-vu among students in Cambridge. Becky Jordan, an undergrad at Catz told The Tab, “This is typical of people in Oxford. They’re the same as us, only one step behind. You can bet this will all end the same as it did over here.”

The Tab hopes that the Ecuadorian Embassy will have fixed its previous ‘technical problems’ by the date of Assange’s speech in Oxford.