Previous winners/Graham Read, Oxford Hub

On Your Doorstep chair rejects prize

Alex Kumar, chair of the Oxford SU On Your Doorstep homelessness campaign, has rejected a nomination for the Vice-Chancellor’s Social Impact Awards.

The awards “recognise students who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in commitment to voluntary and charitable work, and social entrepreneurship”.

In a Facebook post, he cited Vice-Chancellor Richardson’s defence of academic freedom for tutors expressing offensive views, her role in the recent lecturer strikes, her salary, and the university’s “shameless display of inhumanity” towards the homeless as reasons for his rejection of the nomination.

He said: “These are things that I – both in my personal capacity, and as Chair of On Your Doorstep – cannot legitimise. That is why I am rejecting this kind nomination for a well-intentioned award that sadly bears the title of a Vice-Chancellor associated with these things.

“It would be nice to receive an award. But it would be nicer still to see the management and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford start standing with students, staff, and the homeless, rather than against us.”

The awards are awarded by the University in conjunction with the Oxford Hub, a student-run group which coordinates and runs charitable events.  

Previous winners have included Nathaniel Ware, a DPhil student who was founder of 180 degrees, the world’s largest university-based volunteering consulting organisation, and Yashveer Singh, who founded the National Social Entrepreneurship Forum, which as of 2014 had 20,000 participants.

In 2014, 180 degrees provided almost a million hours of volunteer consulting to non-profit organisations worldwide.

Referring to the Vice-Chancellor’s defence of academic freedom for those expressing views “against homosexuality” in 2017, Kumar accused her of “defending discrimination and prejudice by those in positions of power in an academic setting”.

He then criticised her for her initial stance on proposed pension changes for academic staff, and suggested that she “had to be dragged along by striking academics and a student solidarity campaign into standing up for University staff whose pensions were under fire”.

He also referred to “the moral questions” raised by her salary and the university’s investment in offshore “tax havens” in the context of rising student debt, the University’s socioeconomic access problem, and the homelessness crisis.

“This Winter, as rough sleepers in oxford desperately searched for shelter from the rain and snow, I noticed fencing had been erected around the eaves of the University of Oxford’s Finance Division so that people couldn’t sleep there. This shameless display of inhumanity came against the backdrop of last year’s revelation of the Paradise Papers, that told us that our university had been pouring money into offshore tax havens and investments in deep sea drilling whilst treating suffering humanity in its own city with utter disinterest.”