‘Rival Union’ organised by boycotting students

‘Rival Union’ set up at Wadham to host speakers boycotting Union

An ‘alternative Union’ has been set up by students to host speakers boycotting the famous debating chamber.

A number of students, led by Barnaby Raine, have arranged for Wadham college to host a debate tomorrow evening with speakers originally scheduled to attend the Union.

The speakers at Thursday’s event include Norman Finkelstein, the leading forensic scholar who has written widely on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Jewish affair and Mouin Rabbani- Senior Fellow with the Institute for Palestine Studies and Co-Editor of Jadaliyya.

Finkelstein will be appearing at this Thursday’s alternative debate

Barnaby Raine explained, “These two speakers have pulled out of their planned Oxford Union talks on Thursday and will be giving a free public lecture instead. They make no presumption about the guilt of Ben Sullivan, but think he should step aside while under investigation”.

In a joint letter to the Union, signed by both Finklestein and Rabbani, the two speakers said, “We make no judgement about the validity of the accusations against Ben Sullivan, both because we are not in possession of the relevant facts and because the presumption of innocence applies equally to Mr. Sullivan and irrespective of the severity of the accusations levelled against him.

Nevertheless, we have decided to respond positively to an appeal by a group of students, including members of the Oxford Student Union and the Oxford Union, to reconsider our acceptance of your invitation.

We spoke to them at length, and … they persuaded us that it sends a damaging message to victims of sexual violence, and furthermore undermines the stature of the Oxford Union, if Mr. Sullivan does not step aside from his leadership of the Oxford Union pending the conclusion of the police investigation against him”.

Our detailed questioning persuaded us that the students who have taken this issue to heart are not motivated by animus or excessive zeal, but rather a determination to improve society”.

Alternative: Wadham will host a breakaway debate

Wadham student Aliya Yule told the Tab “I’m really glad campaigners have organised this free public lecture at Wadham on Thursday at 5pm. It means speakers can make a principled protest about the Oxford Union’s handling of rape allegations without depriving Oxford students of the chance to hear them speak.

“The Oxford Union should take note; high profile speakers are pulling out, not because they presume Ben Sullivan is guilty, but because they think all rape allegations should be treated with the utmost seriousness and the Union has completely failed to do that”.

The campaign by students relates to the recent arrest of Union president Ben Sullivan on suspicion of alleged rape and attempted rape. He was released on bail without charge.

The talk is due to take place at Wadham at 5pm on Thursday. Event details can be found here.