Objections raised by student activists over Christian presence on campus
Christian Concern can confirm reports in the media that we have made enquiries about hosting our 10th annual Wilberforce Academy at Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), Oxford in 2019.
Although we understand that the college’s Junior Common Room (JCR) has voted to oppose our booking, our correspondence has been directly with the college which has the requisite management and decision making power on these issues. As a charity, the university has a duty to maximise the use of its assets.
Today (25 Oct), the college wrote to inform us that if they were to host our event, they would require us to pay for additional security, due to the likelihood of members of the LMH community – including staff and senior members – wishing to “express vehement disagreement” and engage in “sustained, “very noticeable” protest.
It seems that the college is afraid that members of its own community would be unable to maintain peaceful protest, bringing into question their commitment to their own college value of ‘fairness – openness and equality’. Surely if students or staff members were to act in violent or aggressive ways towards visitors to the college, then this would be covered under the college’s normal code of conduct for staff and students and the usual disciplinary measures could be taken against such action. We recognise the value of peaceful protest but the usual procedure for any responsible hosting organisation is to contact the police who, paid for by tax payers, will make an assessment and provide cover.
We are perplexed as to how the historic Christian view of marriage, gender and sanctity of life would constitute a threat to students’ “physical and mental safety”. We have held 9 other Academies in Oxbridge colleges. Students there have been able to cope and neither we, nor those universities have heard of any harm caused by our events. On the contrary, we have often been told that we were exemplary guests.
We have written to ask the college what the expected costs would be for the additional security that they believe is necessary to prevent their own community members causing disruption to our event.
It is disappointing that the college and its students would appear to feel so threatened by an event promoting the same Christian values as Oxford University has so clearly been shaped by.