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Image Credit: Cornelia Chen

Students call for ‘formal apology’ from Pro Vice Chancellor on SU motion

Over 150 students at the University of Oxford have signed an open letter to Pro Vice Chancellor Martin Williams.

The letter asks him to retract a letter sent to The Telegraph and apologise to students.

Williams’ letter, sent on 18th May, expressed disapproval of a recent Student Union (SU) motion to cut financial ties with the Oxford Union (OU), and emphasised the importance of free speech.

The motion, passed on Tuesday 9th May 2023, cited concerns over alleged bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, and data privacy breaches affecting students, and came amid the row over Kathleen Stock’s invitation to the OU. The fallout from Stock’s invitation has made national headlines.

The students were disappointed by this, accusing Professor Williams of perpetuating the media’s misrepresentation of the reasons behind the SU’s decision. The open letter alleges that the motion passed by the SU did not mention Dr. Stock’s talk, and thus contributed to a disingenuous national media narrative.

The students also expressed disappointment that Professor Williams chose to address the issue indirectly through the media, instead of engaging directly with the student body. They argue that the SU represents all students at Oxford University, and motions passed by the SU are reflective of the student voice.

The alleged conflation of the reasons for cutting ties with the OU and the platforming of Dr. Stock has drawn national media attention, leading to threats, abuse, and hate speech targeted at queer students.

In their open letter, the students called for three specific actions. Firstly, they requested that Professor Williams retract his letter to The Telegraph, dated 18th May 2023.

Secondly, they urged him to issue a formal apology to the students of Oxford University, highlighting the undermining effect his letter had on their voices.

Finally, they asked for his engagement with LGBTQ+ students through the SU’s LGBTQ+ Campaign and the LGBTQ+ Society to acknowledge the harm caused, and to help work towards a safer environment for queer students and staff.

The open letter was penned by final year students Kelsey Trevett and Rachel Hart, with 166 other students signing.

Trevett commented, “”Student democracy is vital. As a non-binary student at Oxford, I was deeply frustrated to see Prof Williams conflation of two issues, culminating in his letter in the Telegraph, fuelling media hostility towards trans students.

“Our open letter demonstrates that when given a voice, students place the safety of our community first and foremost every time. Our voice must not be undermined by university management.”

The students’ letter follows a similar one from academics, who also condemned the University and stood with trans students.

The University has been contacted for a comment.

Image Credit: Cornelia Chen

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