Cherwell

No more homophobic abuse, Wadham tells Queerfest guards

Wadham students will place a code of conduct on hired security guards at this week’s Queerfest, after accusations of homophobic abuse, theft, and leering at last year’s event.

SU Entz officers initially attempted to ban the firm R&R Frontline Services Limited, claiming their employees created an “unwelcome atmosphere” by using homophobic slurs at the event dedicated to “queerness, defiance, diversity and self-expression”.

After the college informed the Entz team this would not be possible, they decided to enforce a code of conduct enforcing standards on “queerphobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexism”.

The college said the freelance guard implicated in last year’s events will not be returning.

This year’s Queerfest, themed ‘Where do we go from Queer? 100 Years of Queer, Past, Present and Future’, will see 850 students descend on Wadham College for a night devoted to artistic expression and freedom of identity.

Alleged incidents by a guard at last year’s Queerfest included a stolen phone and use of offensive slurs against attendants.

According to senior SU officers, a security guard allegedly used a homophobic term of abuse against a student in attendance.

An Entz officer said that they sought this year to prevent guards from “staring out” attendees.

According to the officer, this was “because people might come dressed in very little fabric, [and] we don’t want the security guards to check them out”.

One queer-identifying guest told Cherwell: “The security didn’t feel welcoming at all.

“If people aren’t being welcomed inclusively with open arms then it definitely feels a bit weird.”

In response to the incidents, the Wadham Entz team, consisting of Son Olszewski, Oli Nelson, Alex Coonar, and Theo Anton, requested the college find an alternative security for this year’s event, which are also hired for bops and other events.

Senior college figures informed the officers this would not be possible, and R&R would return.

The Entz team has held discussions with R&R over the last two weeks, which resulted in the firm confirming the accused guard from working at the event.

Nelson told Cherwell: “The decision to use R&R came through college…the best we can do is to take steps to ensure that the same things don’t happen again.”

After conceding to the college’s decision, the Entz officers chose to enforce a code of conduct for the guards working at this events. Nelson told Cherwell: “we’re submitting a very black-and-white script to R&R detailing our absolute bottom lines in terms of conduct.

“This involves our expected standards towards LGBTQIA+ attendees, definitions and working examples of queerphobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexism, and protocol in regards to lost property/theft etc.”

One incident that may have prompted such a policy is the alleged theft of a mobile phone.

Following the event, two students were forced to travel to recover the phone after a member of the security personnel reportedly took it home to his house.

One of them told Cherwell: “My friend asked me to accompany him to an address that had popped up on Find my iPhone.

“After we recovered the phone we realised that it had the guard’s SIM card in it.”

No one pressed charges, and the case is reportedly considered closed.

The code of conduct document reportedly contains a list of comments that could be interpreted as offensive.

“It has examples of things we find problematic even if they don’t,” a Wadham SU officer told Cherwell.

There are no specific allegations of this having taken out in the past, but the policy was included as “a preventative measure”.

The Entz officers held a meeting with R&R on Monday to discuss general security protocol. They agreed security personnel will be briefed on in three stages; first the head of security, second through the document which is being sent out, and third by the Entz team on the day of the event.

Entz officers emphasised that the alleged incidents were committed by a freelance operative: “If we or the college had changed firms we could very easily have got the same individuals under question from last year, since they are freelanced and work for more than one company.”

Queerfest is advertised as a space “to rejoice in a radical spirit of queerness, defiance, diversity and self-expression for six utopian, space-age, magical hours”.

An evening of live music and dancing, Queerfest is Oxford’s biggest student celebration of LGBTQ+ culture, which culminates Queer Week.

A spokesperson for the college told Cherwell: “Wadham College has been using R&R Frontline Services for many years. Since last year’s Queerfest, in consultation with Wadham students, the College has continued to employ this company to work at regular Wadham bops and at Wadstock.

“R&R Frontline Services have confirmed that employees concerned in isolated incidents at last year’s Queerfest will not be working at the event on Saturday.”

R&R declined to comment.