The Oxford Union Society has come under fire for misleading members about the profits received from charity events held on the premises.
“Charities and Cocktails” was held on Tuesday in the Oxford Union, in connection with Oxford Hub. The advertisement for the event in the Union term-card told members to “add a dash of fellow-feeling and a pinch of generosity” and to “top up with Charity.”
But none of the money from this term’s event, held on Tuesday, went to charity. The proceeds instead merely covered the costs incurred by the cheap drinks deals and aimed to raise awareness for charities represented.
The Union have also claimed that any profits that had been made would have gone to the Oxford Hub, an organisation that facilitates charity work in Oxford, who organised the event in collaboration with the Union. Union Secretary Anna Williams said, “the profit of the event goes to OxHub, the society we are doing the event in collaboration with.” The Union’s costs were estimated at £20-30.
However, a budget for the event shows instead a 50/50 split in the income, estimated at £260, between the Union and the Oxford Hub.
Union President Charlie Holt said, “the Union’s half will go towards covering costs… We can only ever guess how much we need to take out. In this case, 50% seemed reasonable. What you are basing the £130 on is the budget which was presented, not the account which gives an accurate reflection of how much we took – this will be published on Monday.”
He denied that advertising had been misleading, “the whole point of the event was to raise awareness of the charities that OxHub support – it was never implied that we would give money from ticket sales to charity.”
Students have attacked the way that the event was marketed, stating that advertisements and publicity circulated mislead members into thinking profit from their purchases would go to charity.
One member said, “I’m shocked to learn that the ticket money isn’t going to charity. I didn’t attend the event but saw the advert in the term card… I’d be really angry if I’d bought a ticket to the event.”
Another first year student said, “this just makes the Union look really bad. It really annoys me that they’ve managed to get away with doing this.
“Fair enough if OxHub staged the event to publicise the work they do but members need to know that this is the point of the event. Normally if you pay to attend a charity event, it’s taken as given that your money will go to the charity.”
Union press officer Rebecca Molyneux defended this term’s event, saying, “I don’t think it was misleading at all. In a way it was giving to charity. Raising awareness could be considered giving to charity.”
She confirmed that last term’s event did not donate any money to charity either. She said, “it was purely an awareness-raising event. The money went towards the unlimited punch.”
Union President Charlie Holt said, “the main point was to raise awareness and I think that was made quite clear.” Union Secretary Anna Williams said that “the point of the evening is to not only make money for charity but also to engage students with the member organisations of OxHub such as Jacari and KEEN in order that they may give up some of their time to help them.”
The events coordinator for OxHub, Laura Higgins, stated that OxHub would not be receiving any profit from the event, claiming that the event was not “a profit-making venture, but merely concerned with cost-recovery.”
She said the aim of the event had been simply to “raise awareness of our member charities…to encourage more students to become involved in charitable activities during their time at university.”
She explained that the Union would take a proportion of the ticket price to cover “costs they have incurred publicizing and organizing the event from their end,” and that the “Oxford Hub portion equally goes to cover the costs incurred in running a sustainable events programme.”
She confirmed that profits from the bar would go to Thirst Lodge who provided the drinks at a discounted price.