OUSU has passed a motion to condemn Andrew Hamilton’s alleged proposal to raise tuition fees at its council on Wednesday, although JCRs remain divided on whether or not to support it.
The successful motion read that the OUSU council resolves “to oppose and condemn the Vice-Chancellor’s suggestion that undergraduate tuition fees should further increase, to oppose further government cuts to higher education”.
Although the OUSU motion passed comfortably, support is not as unequivocal as might have previously been thought. Whilst a number of colleges have passed motions at the request of OUSU President Tom Rutland to support the OUSU motion and condemn any fee increase, many colleges have not brought the motion to the JCR and St Hugh’s has gone so far as to reject the motion entirely.
The OUSU debate was also a controversial one, becoming heated with Jane Cahill, ex-Queen’s College JCR president, labelling the Vice Chancellor “a bell-end”.
She later told Cherwell, “Hamilton’s comments were made revealing a radical change on his stance towards tuition fees and destroying the argument for better public funding of universities. They were made without a hint of consultation with student leaders and have already done immense damage to the perception of Oxford as a place for all thanks to the headlines he has produced by riling up the press. That’s not how our relationship with the university should work.”
Others have taken a more considered approach, stressing that a personal attack on Andrew Hamilton is unlikely to be particularly fruitful. Alex Bartram, Balliol JCR President, stressed, “the Vice Chancellor was wrong to make the comments, but it’s just unhelpful to call him a bell-end.”
Emails exchanged between JCR presidents over the issue has also become a matter of controversy after Alex Bartram criticised the Brasenose JCR president for acting too swiftly.
Just 11 minutes after Rutland sent out an initial e-mail encouraging presidents to bring the motion to their respective JCRs, Blythe claimed that he had “had a go at drafting a motion” leading Bartram to claim that his “writing the email, the statement and the draft motion in ten minutes is nothing more than miraculous”. This has led to allegations that Blythe had been in contact with Rutland previously.
Both Blythe and Bartram, however, have dismissed the issue. Bartram claimed that it was an example of “the collaborative process” and Blythe commented that “as soon as I saw the Vice-Chancellor’s Oration I began drafting a motion for my JCR and a joint statement for JCR presidents because I saw that a united and rapid response would be vital. I then spoke briefly to Tom Rutland and agreed to wait for him to finish drafting the OUSU Council motion before sending out my draft statement. This is a storm in a teacup designed to distract from the substance of the issue.”