Oriel College is hosting a “solidarity dinner” on the evening of Friday 6th March, intended to act in solidarity with students from countries affected by the coronavirus. They have been invited to the dinner “as guests of the college”.
In an email announcing the dinner, Domestic Bursar Steven Marshall caused controversy by referring to affected countries as being in the “Far East” and saying that the dinner would feature an “Oriental-themed menu.”
A further email described the menu for the dinner. It promised “exotic fruits” and “fortune cookies”.
One Oriel student said of the dinner: “We recognise that Oriel means well, but the language used in the first email was really archaic and thoughtless, and has left a number of students worried that Oriel is substituting a nice black-tie formal with wine for actual meaningful help for struggling students.”
Another Oriel student echoed these sentiments when they commented: “The formal feels incredibly tone deaf on Oriel’s part, and geared towards boosting formal attendance above anything else. Had the college tried to use the event to raise money for vaccine research, then perhaps it would be more understandable. But right now, to many students, this whole dinner seems misguided.”
A spokesperson for Oriel College said: “The College recognises that the past few months have been especially worrying for some of our overseas students, particularly those from China and other regions in Asia who will be unable to travel home to see their families during the Easter vacation due to concerns over the rapid spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“In addition to providing practical support by ensuring that affected students have accommodation over the vacation, along with appropriate welfare provisions, the College has organised a formal din- ner to which affected students have been invited to dine as guests of the College.
“The event is intended to bring the College community together to show solidarity with all those impacted.
“The response to the event has been positive and many of our students and academic staff have signed up to attend the dinner and show their support. We are very proud of the community spirit that has been shown in response to this challenging situation.”