Members of Corpus Christi’s JCR proposed a motion this week to create a position on their Equal Opportunities Committee to represent right-wing opinions.
The motion originally claimed, “Within this JCR, people who are politically to the right are often actively isolated, personally attacked, and made to feel unwelcome… We have an equal opportunities committee with individuals on it to represent minorities in this JCR who are often perceived as being subject to prejudice from society”.
It resolved “to represent the conservative minority in the JCR on the Equal Ops Committee and to charge this committee member with ensuring that conservative views and opinions are free to be aired in the JCR.”
However, following opposition from JCR members, the motion was eventually amended so it instead read, “to mandate the Equal Opportunities President to ensure that people do not discriminate or name-call on the basis of political ideology in the JCR.”
30 JCR Members voted in favour of the amended motion, with 24 voting against. The Equal Opportunities Committee at Corpus has representatives for Black and Minority Ethnic, Gender, Spectrum (LGBTQ), and Disabilities.
Samuel Robberts, who proposed the motion, claimed, “Corpus JCR is, at its best, a friendly environment in which people are free to express themselves without hostility or personal rebuke. I felt that it was necessary to bring this motion in order to remind certain parts of the JCR that this freedom extends to all people, regardless of their views.
“There had, of late, been a series of incidents where people with right leaning political views were personally attacked for having said views and, as my motion stated, were accused of ‘hating the gays’, ‘being a rape apologist’, and being ‘ignorant’. They were told that their views are insulting or misguided and had their views and beliefs dismissed out of hand because they happened to be different to the majority.
“This motion was entirely JCR-specific,and I saw it more as a chance to raise awareness of the issue in the appropriate forum, rather than to effect substantive change in the way the JCR committee works. That the motion passed in an amended form is pleasing, provided that people appreciatethe issues raised.”
Henry Tonks, an OCA member and Corpus Christi student, commented, “I can sympathise with the feelings that lay behind this motion – I think there’s no question that the Corpus JCR as an institution goes out of its way to be seen as a liberal, open, maybe even permissive environment. This has ended up giving primacy to political correctness over a genuinely healthy tolerance and variety, and it is hard to feel comfortable in the JCR expressing conservative views.”
He added, “With all of that said, I can’t say that I am particularly happy with the motion, since it seems distinctly unconservative to rely on an arbitrarily designated institution to express the beliefs of an individual.”
Steph Cherill, JCR Equal Opportunities President, said, “As Samuel Robberts’ motion made dramatically clear, there has been a deteriorationin the attitude of several JCR members towards people who are right of centre. They by no means represent the mainstream opinion of Corpus JCR. It is my strong belief, not only as a conservative, but as Equal Opportunities President, that this poses a threat to this atmosphere of intellectual discussion as well as to the welfare of JCR members, who may feel victimised.
“I would add that [Robberts’] experienceis not unique among membersof the JCR who spoke in supportof the motion in the meeting. Discussion of the motion in itself has and will support my new mandate to protect against the discrimination in the complaint. I am confident that this will be the end of the problem.’
Kezia Lock, JCR President, commented in a personal capacity, “The basis of this motion was a number of isolated incidents between particular members of the JCR – almost all of whom hold a place on the JCR Committeeor sub-committee. Under my presidency I have tried to ensure thatthe JCR as a forum and representative body is apolitical. The JCR as a bodydoes not endorse any political party.”
“I am saddened to hear that the strong political views of these particular ‘lefty’ individuals have caused them to undermine their holding tolerance as a sacred virtue by being completely intolerant of ‘conservative’ views, and that this led to inappropriate personal attacks and intolerance.The motion very quickl yturned into an empty motion mandating individual JCR members to benicer to each other, to be enforced by the Equal Ops President.”
Rachel Dellar, a fourth-year biochemistat Corpus, commented, “I personally believe the original motion was inappropriate because allpositions currently on the Equal Ops committee are there to protect thewelfare of individuals who cannotchoose the fact that they are in a minority . Although political preferenceis a somewhat systemic issue and isobviously correlated with upbringing, there is a clear element of choicewhich makes it disparate from BME or Spectrum, for example.
“Whilst name-calling and completedisrespect are obviously inappropriate,I believe it is appropriateand healthy to engage in debate/criticism of wthe views we choose inorder to further understanding. It is also fine and should not be consideredoffensive if someone does notwant to engage in debate.”
She added, “I was opposed to themotion because in its amended form,it was just nonenforceable wordsto be added to the constitution. You can’t mandate all members to be friendly.”