The Union will go online only for Trinity Term, with talks and debates in podcast format, Cherwell can exclusively reveal.
The society will continue with a full termcard, which will be released in 0th week. It will have regular individual speakers, two debates a week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays), and will hold several “weekend specials” throughout the term.
Talks will be similar to their standard format, with the President or Librarian interviewing. Debates will more closely resemble a panel format, with the hosts interviewing the speakers one by one, followed by a discussion. The talks will be recorded collectively, so individual speakers have the chance to respond to each other. All podcasts will be pre-recorded.
Speaking to Cherwell, President Mahi Joshi said: “With teaching going fully online for Trinity, and few students expected to be in Oxford, it would be impossible to hold our traditional events in Oxford. Not only would few of our members be able to attend, but it would potentially jeopardise the health and safety of all those involved.
“Moreover, current travel restrictions mean that it would be effectively impossible to secure any confirmations, either from UK-based or International speakers. All the work we as a committee do over the vacation is in the interests of putting together a term card which shares exciting and important voices with our members, and organising fully online events is the only way to achieve this in TT20.”
Interviewing speakers, and conducting debates remotely will allow a solution for travel restrictions currently in place globally. Joshi commented that, “The online format of the podcasts means that it will be easier to welcome speakers who might not be able to make it to the Union for a traditional event, whether for reasons of mobility or distance. We hope that, as a result, we will have a broad range of participants joining us, making for a diverse and exciting term card.”
Members will be able to submit questions to speakers through a form shared on the Union’s Facebook page. The host will choose the most popular and interesting questions and pose these to the speaker. Joshi said, “For individual speaker events, tough lines of questioning by the host, as well as pre-submitted member questions, will challenge speakers as normal.
“For our debate podcasts, the opportunity for speakers to engage more directly with each other than they might in a debate means that any controversial views will be directly and intelligently challenged by speakers with differing views.”
She hopes that the online talks will provide a convenient alternative to traditional events, and noted that: “We appreciate that few people’s first thought at the announcement of Trinity being fully online is, “oh no, what about the Oxford Union!” But during these isolating times, our podcasts will hopefully give members the opportunity to listen to something insightful and inspiring, outside the day-to-day COVID news.
“We also hope, with students feeling disconnected from Oxford during this remote term, our podcasts will offer students a connection to Oxford life, and will give them something to look forward to each day.”
The Union buildings, including its members’ bar and library, closed early at the end of 8th week. Buildings will be reopened as and when government measures are changed. Library loans will be extended to the 13th of October, 2nd week of Michaelmas Term 2020.
The Oxford Union podcasts will be released on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Alexa.