New tensions have arisen between Stuart Webber and Zuleyka Shahin, who ran against one another for Union presidency last week, over a speaker event scheduled for today.
On Sunday evening, a Facebook event page managed by Shahin and fellow-student Annie Teriba called ‘A$AP Rocky in Oxford’ was created. The event was scheduled to be held today in the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre owned by Christ Church. It was a ticketed event open to non-Union members.
This morning, the Oxford Union set up a rival Facebook event page, ‘A$AP ROCKY at The Oxford Union’, with the event description, “IN 12 HOURS TIME, A$AP Rocky will be in Oxford… The hype around this is so great that others have tried to leak it…
“HOWEVER This is the *official* event for A$AP Rocky’s visit to speak ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY at the Oxford Union.”
In a comment on the post, ‘The Oxford Union created the event’, the Union Facebook account said, “Despite what you’ve heard, A$AP ROCKY will ONLY be at the Oxford Union, not anywhere else: EXCLUSIVELY and FREE.
“He will not be going to Christ Church, and there will be no charge for tickets.”
This event is also open to non-Union members, contrary to normal Union practice.
Cherwell understands that Rocky will now be speaking at the Oxford Union rather than at the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre this evening.
The Oxford Union told Cherwell, “A$AP Rocky was always intending to come to the Oxford Union, and he will be speaking in the Union Chamber at 8pm this evening. This event is open for free to all bod card holders, and for information on signing up please see the official Oxford Union Facebook event. See you there!”
In a statement released on their event page, Teriba said, “For those of you who have been confused by what has happened in the last day or so, we’d like to clarify. Since the last vacation Zuleyka has been in negotiations with the publicist for A$AP Rocky. As far as we understand, the intention was always to speak in Oxford.
“Earlier in term, it became clear that the Union would have to contribute to his flight and accommodation costs. Zuleyka, having found full sponsorship wished for the event to go forward. During the manifesto scrutiny process, which is routinely recorded and exists on file in the Union, both Stuart and Olivia categorically said that A$AP Rocky, regardless of what funding Zuleyka had found, would not be speaking at the Union. We now believe that this was to prevent Zuleyka from being able to claim that she had confirmed a speaker in her manifesto.
“Moreover, in light of the Union declaring itself institutionally racist, the Sponsor would only accept sponsorship of the event if a guarantee would be given that the Union was taking significant steps towards reforming itself. The sponsor subsequently decided to no longer go ahead with sponsorship, exercising the break clause within the contract following the events of this past week.
“After the sponsorship fell through, Zuleyka emailed Rocky’s management to cancel, explaining the situation. We received an email back in which Rocky’s publicist insisted that the event go ahead, calling Zuleyka numerous times. Once we were in contact with them, Zuleyka and I decided that the best course of action would be to seek out alternative sponsorship. We secured a second sponsor. Given that the terms of the new contract would require action in the MT15 President’s term we called him a number of times and sent texts urging him to call us urgently to no avail. The second package for sponsorship fell through.
“Conscious of the fact that it was Sunday and the event was due to be held on Tuesday, we began contacting other societies of interest and signalled to his management that we would be looking for alternative venues and funding streams -including ticketing- in order to host the event. We negotiated the terms to allow for Rocky to come to another venue now that we had arrangements in place for his arrival.
“Yesterday, we found out that Olivia and Stuart had called Rocky’s management to bring the event to the Union. Zuleyka was emailed and threatened with disciplinary action. Apparently, even without the sponsorship, the Union were willing to contribute to the buyout of flights and accommodation, just so the event wouldn’t be hosted by us.
“We called Rocky’s management who said that they wanted to resolve the issue as amicably as possible for all parties and that they would ensure that we were not shut out of the event. Zuleyka and I then went to the Union last night to attempt to find out what happened. Negoiations failed.
“We emailed Olivia to suggest as a compromise that the event be held at the Union, but that it be open to non-members and that Zuleyka and I interview Rocky given that when asked the Librarian to name an A$AP Rocky song, he said ‘Purple Drank’. We have numerous emails asking us to ensure that those who interviewed Rocky knew who he was and were well versed in his career.
“We are appalled that this event is being used as a pawn in petty infighting despite no responses to our initial attempts to reach out. We are appalled that as it stands Rocky will be interviewed by someone who did not know who he was before this term and apparently still doesn’t. We are appalled that the in politicking of some individuals has put the event in jeopardy.
“The intention was always to make the event successful. To that end we encourage you all to go and see him speak. We will be refunding any tickets that were bought. Further to this, we ask that pressure is put on the Union to resolve the farcical situation in which someone who could not as of yesterday evening name an A$AP Rocky song is interviewing him.
“The priority is serving the students of Oxford, whether they be members of not, to allow for amazing artists to come address us.
“We apologise to anyone who has been inconvenienced by this and wish Rocky the very best of luck tonight. Please enjoy the event.”
According to Union rules, in order for candidates to claim on manifestos that they have confirmed a speaker, they must ‘have produced written evidence either that a contract is being drawn up for a confirmed sum of money or that a speaker has accepted an invitation and provided a date.’ Shahin was not considered by the Returning Officer to have met these criteria during scrutiny procedures.
Webber has been contacted for comment.