Trinity College’s JCR has rejected a motion to donate for the Plush for All accessibility campaign. Instead a motion will be brought at the next JCR meeting to donate the same amount to a local LGBTQ+ charity.
Concerns were raised by JCR members over donating to a for-profit business, with arguments that it was a business investment, not a donation featuring. It was suggested that the college should be donating to registered charities rather than merely speeding up the actions of a business.
Since moving venues, Plush has been collaborating with the Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign and OU LGBTQ+ Society to improve accessibility at the new site in Frewin Court. Once inside the club, the venue is 100% accessible. However, the stairs in the entrance to the venue limit disabled access.
The Plush for All Campaign is fundraising to install a chairlift, which would make the club fully accessible. While the club could raise the £10,000 needed for the project on its own, it would take them at least a year to do so.
Many students were concerned about donating to a for-profit organisation over a charity. One said: “I would not just hand over money like that to a nightclub, however good the cause. You don’t know where it will really go.”
The student who put forward the motion argued: “Firstly, improving accessibility is not a business investment. Oxford as a city is not an accessible place to live, and it’s clear that almost all the businesses here are completely financially viable without being fully accessible.
“The venue in which Plush currently resides has never before been wheelchair accessible and has hosted various wildly successful clubs in the past. Plush do not want to become fully wheelchair accessible because they think it will improve their finances – it will not. It may improve the sale value of the venue but the building, owned by the Union, is not going to be sold anytime soon and this is clearly not their motivation for installing a chair lift.”
While acknowledging JCR members’ concerns about donating to a for-profit organisation, they argued that: “Plush have contributed a huge amount to the cause: buying in-house wheelchairs, making the inside of the club fully accessible (toilets, bar areas, dancefloor), and creating a quiet breakout space.”
They added: “As for the worries that we will not get anything in return, that is the point of a donation. Plush contribute a lot to the LGBTQ+ community here: they sponsor Oxford Pride, they subsidise Tuesday nights, and they have held nights for people with learning and physical disabilities with no cost for the organisers, while incurring costs themselves.
“Historically, LGBTQ+ spaces have not qualified as charities because they, by social consensus at the time, were not seen as having a charitable purpose.
“The company vs charities argument is valid but there must be considerations about the historical realities of LGBTQ+ charitable causes. Ultimately this is about what Plush can do for a marginalised community, and to my mind it has proven its worth and deserves our help.”
Some JCR members were strongly in support of the motion, and argued that students would benefit. One said: “It would be such a lovely gesture to see that the JCR is willing to put forward this small amount of money towards increasing access.
“Oxford is such an inaccessible place already, and Trinity is lacking in disabled students at least in part because of its own accessibility.”
Some members of the college suggested that this was a use of the JCR budget that could be afforded, raising the fact that Entz were given £150 of the JCR budget to spend on pizza and snacks.
One student said: “If we can afford this then £200 on something that would benefit the overall Oxford community for years to come (without affecting the financial standing of the JCR in the slightest) seems like a no-brainer really.”
The motion was defeated by 63 votes against 35, with 5 abstentions. Last week, Christ Church JCR also rejected a motion to donate to the Plush for All Campaign. The proposal suggested that the money come from Christ Church JCR’s unplanned emergency fund.
Those present reported that one of the main objections raised was the inappropriateness of using this fund for non-emergencies. The majority of fund spent so far this year went towards building a new herb garden.
However, several other college JCRs have pledged their support, including University, Hertford and Wadham. Total college donations to the campaign total over £1800.
In a statement about the campagin, the SU LGBTQ+ Society said: “The new venue is not currently 100% accessible. From the outset, Plush have been committed to changing this to continue being an LGBTQ+ space open to all.
“They have consulted with members of Society and Campaign, including our Disabilities Reps, and have already invested significant amounts into accessibility at the new venue.
“This includes: installing an easy access toilet, a ramp, and better breakout zones with quieter music and softer lighting than in the old venue. This addresses the needs of those with physical, sensory, cognitive, mental and developmental disabilities.
“The last piece in the puzzle is the installation of a chairlift for wheelchair users. “After months of consultations, this is the solution that we have found that best marries user needs, feasibility and cost.”