More than 200 Cambridge University students have written an open letter expressing concerns about their “safety” after the Conservative group booked out their school’s hall for a dinner.
Students raised their concerns in a letter to former Whitehall mandarin Lord Simon McDonald, who is now a master of Christ’s College, Cambridge.
The Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA), whose former members include Tory grandee Ken Clarke, booked Christ’s ornate hall for its annual Chairman’s Dinner on November 25th.
This means the dinner planned in the hall to mark the college’s celebration of Bridgemas – Cambridge’s version of Christmas – will have to take place elsewhere.
In the lengthy letter to Lord McDonald’, trainee solicitor Ossie Visick, president of Christ’s Junior Common Room (JCR), questioned why CUCA was allowed to book the room as it is used for the Bridgemas event on the same day every year.
He accused CUCA of having a “polarizing reputation” and said students had “expressed concerns that it made them feel unsafe”.
However, a CUCA spokesperson hit back, saying the hall was fully booked in April and that the “real problem” was that the JCR did not act early enough to reserve the hall for their dinner on November 25.
They added: “These students are using extreme rhetoric about so-called ‘safety concerns’ to pressure their college into canceling our event and to suppress debate on conservative issues.”
More than 200 Cambridge University students have written an open letter expressing concerns about their “safety” after the Conservative group booked out their school’s hall for a dinner. Above: Christ’s College, Cambridge
Mr Visick said he and co-signatories objected to the “disrespectful and insensitive behavior” of CUCA members, adding: “The college must balance its commitment to freedom of expression with its commitment to ensuring our students feel safe, valued and feel respected.”
He also claimed that CUCA’s debates “only caused harm, especially at such a traumatic time for our students with ties to the Middle East.”
The student also claimed that CUCA events had a reputation for being “destructive affairs.”
The student added: “To summarize our concerns: We regret that the College has consistently prioritized this external (and unlawfully organized) event, hosted by a distasteful, provocative company, over an internal tradition established by our community is appreciated.”
“We call on the college to fulfill its obligation to value the traditions of its own students and their safety more than an outside society’s alcohol-fueled event.”
“We call on the university to listen to the voice of its students and address their concerns.”
“We call on the management of the university to cancel the booking for the CUCA “Chairman’s Dinner” on November 25th and to approach its booking processes for external companies more considerately in the future.”
In the lengthy letter to Lord McDonald’, trainee solicitor Ossie Visick (pictured), the president of Christ’s Junior Common Room (JCR), questioned why CUCA was allowed to book the room as it is used on the same date every year at Bridgemas -Event
The Christ Hall dates back to the 16th century and is regularly used for formal dinners
Mr Visick also claimed that at a meeting late last month, students asked the college to reconsider the booking and expressed their dissatisfaction in the open letter that was written.
So far it has been signed by 216 students.
CUCA was founded in 1921 and has an illustrious list of former members.
Among them are the former chancellor and justice secretary Lord Clarke and the former home secretary Douglas Hurd. Both men served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet.
At the end of each term of office, the “lavish” Chairman’s Dinner takes place. The chairman hands over the office to his successor.
The Christ Hall dates back to the 16th century and is regularly used for formal dinners.
The CUCA spokesman said: “The real problem is that Christ’s College JCR has failed to reserve November 25 for its dinner.”
“It’s a shame – however, we were offered this appointment by Christ’s College in April and we didn’t request it.”
“The booking was made in accordance with Christ’s policies as confirmed by the Senior Tutor and any claim to the contrary is false.”
“In response to these planning concerns, conservative students and CUCA are being accused of a variety of unsavory things, many of which are unfounded and some of which date back so many years that they have nothing to do with the current student body.” – They were not current Members present when they allegedly happened, making it impossible for us to address them.”
They added: “Obviously this has nothing to do with CUCA, security concerns, the Middle East debate or any other issue that might be considered next.”
The letter sent by Ossie Visick, President of the Junior Common Room, to the Head of Christ’s College
“This is about free speech, cancel culture and the fact that the JCR government feels undermined.”
“Fortunately, Christ’s College has confirmed that our dinner will take place – we really look forward to welcoming members, alumni and conservatives in general on November 25.”
Christ’s College has been contacted for comment.
This comes after a debate in Cambridge last month descended into farce when a motion calling for solidarity with Palestine was stopped early because of fears its proposer risked “inciting violence”.
Student association president Fergus Kirman said he was “astonished and appalled” by the motion and subsequently changed the wording entirely after strong backlash from Jewish students.
The motion blamed the Israeli state’s “decades of violent oppression of the Palestinian people” for the war between Israel and Hamas.
It added: “The student union is dissolving itself.” […] “To condemn the British government’s support for the Israeli state and the distortions of the mainstream media in Britain in their reporting on this conflict.”
The motion concluded: “Only a mass uprising on both sides of the Green Line and throughout the Middle East can liberate the Palestinian people.”