St. Hugh’s JCR has voted to remove the name of its Junior Common Room, currently named after the controversial leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi.
In a meeting last week, the JCR resolved to remove the name of their common room. According to the motion, it would be a statement of “solidarity with the persecuted and oppressed minority of Myanmar”. The motion aimed to show students of the college “condemn crimes against humanity and Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance on this issue”.
The motion also mandated the JCR Committee to petition the Principal and other college officials to write an open letter of condemnation to Aung San Suu Kyi on behalf of the college.
The vote was in the form of an anonymous online ballot. The motion passed with 115 votes in favour of the motion, 45 votes against, and 11 abstentions.
Affnafee Rahman, the second year student who proposed the motion, told Cherwell: “The fact that Aung San Suu Kyi studied in this college… makes the Rohingya crisis far more relevant to the students of Hugh’s.”
According to Rahman, the passing of the motion means “that we, as concerned global citizens and promoters of peace have done some justice to our moral responsibility in standing up for the oppressed and those who don’t have a voice, and that for me is the most important thing”.
The motion was delayed following Sunday night’s JCR meeting. Several students felt that the highly important nature of the resolutions should be settled in an anonymous online ballot.
Elise Page, who seconded the JCR motion, said: “the symbolism of our condemnation has more weight,” given Aung San Suu Kyi studied at the college.
Recognising the meeting’s debate on the issue, they said: “Several members of the common room have pointed out that this is a complex issue – it is. What is not complicated is deciding whether human rights offences are wrong.
“We cannot sit by idle while the suffering continues. We must work with what we have namely, the prestige of an Oxford college, and one associated with Aung San Suu Kyi at that – to help those in need as much as we can.”
Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor and de facto leader of Myanmar, studied PPE at St. Hugh’s, graduating in 1967. She has received international condemnation for the Myanmar government’s treatment of its Rohingya minority.
The decision to rename the room follows the college’s earlier removal of an Aung San Suu Kyi portrait to in September. Last week, Oxford City Council concluded that it was “no longer appropriate” for Aung San Suu Kyi to hold Freedom of the City of Oxford.
The Myanmar leader has also been criticised by fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates including current Oxford University student, Malala Yousafzai.
This condemnation extends from the view that Aung San Suu Kyi has been perceived as inactive in actively dealing with the severe humanitarian crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The UN described the atrocities being inflicted upon the Rohingya as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Speaking about the consequences of the ballot passing, the JCR Secretary Curtis Crowley said: “JCR Committee will be going back to the JCR to seek further arguments and evidence for both sides before petitioning the principal and other college officials”.
He stressed the need for a “strong and well-evidenced case” to be put to college authorities, who have already responded to the crisis in Myanmar.
In a previously released official statement, the college stated that it “shares the grave international concern about the persistent ethnic violence towards, and treatment of, the Rohingya community,” and they “earnestly hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will do everything within her power to stop the violence and address the underlying issues as a matter of urgency”.
The JCR Committee will now work to have the College add a letter of condemnation to this statement.