Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Independent since 1920

Somerville College JCR passes motion calling for Vice-Chancellor’s resignation

Somerville College Junior Common Room (JCR) passed a motion on Sunday evening to release a statement, which included a demand for the resignation of Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey, over her response to recent pro-Palestine protests in Oxford.

The motion, which passed with 32 in favour and 5 against (numbers amended 21:00 27th May), was voted on during an emergency meeting which was initially proposed at 22:18 on Friday evening in an email to the JCR, suggesting a meeting time of Sunday 5pm. The date and time was not confirmed until the day of the meeting at 12:17. The full statement was sent out to the JCR at 13:18, after the wrong statement was attached to the initial email. The JCR was not scheduled to meet before next weekend. The turnout represented a small portion  of the JCR, whose membership is several hundred. 

The statement called for Tracey’s resignation for her “refusal to engage with [Oxford Action for Palestine]” and “her office’s decision to call the police on peaceful protesters” after protesters staged a sit-in at University offices on Thursday. The demand also called the University’s statement, issued after Thursday’s events, “woefully inadequate.”

The call for Tracey’s resignation was one of four demands on the University included in the statement. They also demanded the University immediately engage in negotiations with Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P); issue a formal apology for calling the police on students; and award “[a]mnesty for all peaceful protesters.”

Police arrived at the University Administration offices in Wellington Square on Thursday morning after protesters entered and occupied the building. 17 protesters were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass and affray. One one of the 17 was also arrested on suspicion of common assault. All of the 17 protesters arrested Thursday were subsequently released on conditional bail.

The University’s statement, which was sent to all students on Thursday evening and signed by the Vice-Chancellor and other University staff, described the “direct action tactics” used by the protesters as “violent and criminal”. It further instructed: “this is not how to do it.”

The statement also called on Somerville College to condemn the University for calling the police on protesters, to demand the Vice-Chancellor’s resignation, and to support OA4P and “leverage their position” to pressure the University administration to comply with the group’s demands. 

Police entered Somerville College on Thursday afternoon to launch a drone from the premises, after requesting permission to enter the College as part of an effort to maintain the safety of individuals in the nearby protests. Somerville College told Cherwell that the police had “no business” being on College grounds and confirmed that they were subsequently asked to leave by College Principal Jan Royall, after the decision became more “widely-known.” 

The College said in a statement on Thursday: “We take this opportunity to reiterate that we support and respect the right of all our students to protest peacefully. We have extended an open invitation to our students to discuss this incident and the wider protests with us should they wish.”

Danae Ali (a second-year PPE student at Somerville), who proposed the motion, told Cherwell the University’s position regarding the protest “puts their students in danger” and said their conduct on Thursday “clearly evidences this.” 

When questioned about the low turnout, they said: “JCR open meetings generally have a low voter turnout” and noted that the turnout to today’s emergency session was “about the same” as for regular meetings. 

Earlier this month, Somerville JCR passed motions to publish statements in support of Palestine and OA4P’s “liberated zone”. Today’s motion follows several from Oxford college JCRs supporting the pro-Palestine encampment. 

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles