Husts for this year’s OUSU elections have been moved to accessible venues after candidates from the For Oxford and Right to Education slates refused to hust at Hertford on Sunday.
Oriel, which held hustings on Thursday evening, and Univ, due to hold them on Sunday, confirmed this week that entirely accessible venues have now been found after candidates and JCR Presidents voiced their concern.
Will Obeney, For Oxford’s presidential candidate, explained his slate’s decision to not attend any hustings at inaccessible venues, telling Cher- well, “We’re running on a platform of accessibility and we don’t think it’s fair to attend hustings that not all members of our community – and not even all members of our team – can attend and hear the points we raise about accessibility.”
“We think it’s important for every student to be able to fully participate in university life, regardless of background, gender, sexuality, or any specific need, and if elected our team will work hard to ensure this.”
Emily Di Dodo, running for the Disabled Students’ Officer position as part of Right to Education’s slate, told Cherwell, “Immediately after finding out that some of the venues for hustings were not accessible, we decided that it would be against our ethos to attend, as we believe that education is a right and should be accessible to all.”
“I am very pleased that this prompted both Oriel and Univ to change their locations and I hope that this will translate to more consistent awareness that accessibility is important and needs to be addressed for each and every event they run, not just the events where they specifically know disabled people will attend. To avoid something like this happening in the future I want to ensure that we have Disabled Students Officers in all colleges.”
Lindsay Lee, the rival candidate for Disabled Students’ Officer, told Cherwell, “My team, For Oxford, decided against attending hustings held at inaccessible venues because no one thought it made sense for us to attend a husting that not all our candidates could go to, not to mention our entire voting base, considering our entire platform is based on improving accessibility in all its forms.
“I’ve been really happy to see that some colleges are making a real honest effort to make their venues as accessible as possible despite the unbelievable access issues there are at all colleges. But unfortunately I think people still need educating about what physical accessibility actually means before they can label their events ‘accessible’.”
As a result neither For Oxford nor Right to Education were at Hertford on Sunday 9th November. Hertford JCR President Josh Platt told Cherwell, “Will and his slate have taken that position which they have every right to do. Hertford is far too inaccessible and it’s something I’ve told College about, and which they’re aware of. It was a shame Will wasn’t able to come to our husts and make the point that the status quo is unacceptable, but I understand that he felt it would have been hypocritical of him to attend. I’m delighted that accessibility is at the forefront of the election campaign.”
Husts at Oriel — which happened on Thursday — and Univ — due to happen on Sunday — were subsequently moved to apparently accessible rooms. Will Obeney told Cherwell, “We’re really pleased about the response our move has had, from the positive messages to positive action, with all remaining venues being fully accessible. My thanks go to the JCR Presidents and the Returning Officer for their work on this.”
Presidential candidate Becky Howe told Cherwell, “Team ABC are really glad that this election is being made as inclusive and accessible as possible. It’s great news that the hustings at Oriel and Univ have been moved to accessible venues, so that all students wishing to attend can do so.”
Meanwhile, Adam Roberts, the independent presidential candidate, remarked, “Some colleges are absolutely awful for accessibility, and a lot of hard work has gone into trying to make every hustings venue accessible. All of the events I’m personally organising will be. I’m attending all husts but not because I think the status quo is anywhere near acceptable.”
Oriel’s husts on Thursday were attended by all candidates after the College managed to find an accessible room following booking difficulties.
JCR President Kit Owens told Cherwell, “Oriel has a number of rooms that have disabled ac- cess but the booking system makes them harder to obtain, especially when the event includes people from outside Oriel. I had intended the previous venue to be a stopgap whilst I tried to find a more accessible room.
“However (thanks to a very helpful Decanal team), I have managed to source an accessible room for Thursday night and all three candidates will come along as before. I would like to take this opportunity to make it clear that Oriel JCR is dedicated to providing a welcoming and accessible environment for any and all disabled students and I offer my unreserved apologies to any affected.”
Meanwhile, Univ’s JCR President Josh Richards described the difficulties faced in finding a suitable room for husts, explaining, ”I originally indicated that Univ’s venue was not accessible because both common rooms — the two venues that the student body would have access to regardless of what husting time we were allocated — are not accessible.
“I’m really glad that we’ve been able to find an accessible venue for the husts. The College and the JCR are working to improve Univ’s accessibility and I particularly look forward to hearing from the candidates for disabled students’ officer as to how best Univ and colleges like it could be made into more accessible, welcoming environments.”
All candidates attended central hustings at Wadham on Wednesday. OUSU could not be contacted for comment.