Amelia Hamer has been removed as Editor of The Oxford Student following the publication of an online article in June.
The decision was taken by the board of OUSU’s Oxford Student Services Limited (OSSL), which publishes The Oxford Student newspaper. In a statement made on their website, OSSL said that the decision to drop Hamer as Editor has been taken as the board has “lost confidence in her because of her handling of an article published (briefly) on The Oxford Student website on 29 June 2014”. They also stated, “Hamer is entitled to appeal the decision to OUSU Council”. The OSSL Board is made up of the OUSU President, Louis Trup, the Vice Presidents and an OUSU staff member.
The article, published under ‘The OxStu News Team’ byline and entitled ‘Oxford Union ‘rape victim knew her claim was false”, featured messages between ex-Oxford Union President Ben Sullivan, who was accused of rape earlier this year, and his alleged victim. The article was subsequently accused of victim-blaming and compromising the identity of the victim in question, and removed. However, an identical article, also co-written by Hamer, remains published on The Telegraph website.
Thames Valley Police and the Crown Prosecution Service decided against pursuing charges against Ben Sullivan in June; a week before Hamer’s article was published.
In an online petition that currently has 316 signatures, Siobhan Fention, former Editor of The Oxford Tab, called for The Oxford Student to “issue a full apology acknowledging that the victim blaming in your article was wrong and irresponsible. Amelia Hamer, writer of the article and editor of the OxStu, must resign.” In light of Hamer’s dismissal, Fenton said, “I am relieved by the OSSL board’s decision to now remove Amelia Hamer as editor of the OxStu. I hope that the university strives to support its students, to engage in progressive discussions about rape myths and to send the message that no victim is ever responsible for their attack.”
Earlier this month, OUSU responded to the claims made against the article by announcing that they would send the two Oxford Student Editors on a media law training course worth nearly £200 each. In an article for The Tab, Fenton said, “Such a response is at best meek and at worst insulting”.
Caitlin Tickell, from OUSU’s WomCam, stated, “It is right that Amelia Hamer has been sacked for the horrendous article written last term, which peddled rape myth after rape myth, and may well have compromised the anonymity of the women mentioned.”
She added, “There is no place in our university for that kind of victim blaming and it is incredibly important that we work towards making safe spaces for victims of sexual assault and this action is a step in the right direction. I hope that all student journalists will think about how they report on issues of sexual violence, and that measures are put in place to ensure nothing so offensive happens on our campus again.”
However, in an e-mail to her editorial team, Hamer responded to the accusations and her dismissal by stating, “I’ve been called all manner of things over the past three months – “rape apologist”, “slut shamer”, “victim blamer”. I can assure you that I am none of these things. What I am is someone who cares about the truth.”
When answering why The Oxford Student chose to publish the article, Hamer stated that it was “not because we were attempting to “shame” a supposed rape victim or support Ben Sullivan, but because the information was in the public interest. There is little point to a newspaper if not to reveal information that people have a right to know.”
She continued, “The copy was far from perfect, but it was not illegal and did not break the PCC’s Editor’s Code of Conduct.” In response to Fenton’s petition, Hamer wrote, “People demanded an apology: we largely didn’t issue an apology because the OxStu legal advisors advised against it.” She described OSSL’s actions as “unjust,” and said that “the OxStu as a legitimate, independent publication is dead”.
Cherwell has contacted OUSU President Louis Trup for comment.