Advanced search

Oxford Union president rape allegations - alumni open letter

(386 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

FairPhyllis Wed 21-May-14 13:31:45

The president of the Oxford Union (which is a debating society at Oxford), Ben Sullivan, is currently being investigated over allegations of rape and attempted rape of two undergraduates at the university. He is refusing to resign or suspend his presidency. Speakers are beginning to pull out of events.

If you are a member of the university or an Oxford alumna/us, and feel strongly about the minimisation of rape and sexual assault "on campus" there is an open letter you can sign here calling for Sullivan to step aside while under investigation. It is organised by the OUSU VP (Women) and other students.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 14:39:29

Done, and shared it FB. I'm so glad this exists.

meandjulio Wed 21-May-14 14:42:19

I don't really think people should have to change their lives until they are proven guilty.

Salazar Wed 21-May-14 14:43:45


LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 14:46:01

I do, meand.

I don't think being Oxford Union president is such an inalienable right that you shouldn't feel obliged to step down if you're accused of rape. He may know perfectly well he didn't do it and he may be angry and hurt and confused about the accusation, but if he had proper respect for women and for rape survivors, he'd step down and let the Union carry on without him.

Salazar Wed 21-May-14 14:50:24

Here here LDR.

Far more articulate than I am capable of, but the sentiments are all the same.

Salazar Wed 21-May-14 14:52:17

Not articulate at all it seems.... That should be hear hear!

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 14:54:29

Well, I'm articulate because I've had the argument already elsewhere! I do see that it's controversial, but I feel pretty strongly about it. I live in Oxford. There's a video gone around of students walking down the High Street singing about rape, too. It's not a good atmosphere and I think if someone is considered mature and intelligent enough to be head of the Union, they should be able to see that they're contributing to that culture by refusing to resign.

Salazar Wed 21-May-14 14:57:13

Having been educated at Oxford and Durham myself, I know the exact attitude you are talking about. It's very prevalent and universities are doing very little to change the culture.

meandjulio Wed 21-May-14 14:58:22

I work in healthcare and I work with vulnerable people. If I were accused of some kind of violent, neglect or dishonesty crime, then it would make sense for me to be suspended. However, for a job that involves mostly committee meetings, phone calls and debates, I don't see why he should step down until he is proven guilty, and I don't think it shows disrespect for anyone for him to carry on doing what he was elected to do.

NickiFury Wed 21-May-14 14:59:08

I'm not sure I agree. If he's completely innocent why on earth should his life as he knows it change completely to accommodate a false accusation?

Salazar Wed 21-May-14 15:00:38

Nicki... For the reasons LRD states at 14:46. It's about acknowledging the seriousness of the allegations and respect for the nature of the crime and it's victims. Not him.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 15:01:59

nicki - I don't think his life as he knows it should change completely.

But no-one is suggesting it should.

However, he should step down.

meand - I think rape victims are vulnerable people. There is quite a high chance he is working with some rape victims - I think the statistic is something like 1 in 4.

NickiFury Wed 21-May-14 15:02:15

I still don't agree. Innocent till proven guilty, it can't be different for one particular crime.

WhentheRed Wed 21-May-14 15:03:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 15:04:46

nicki - who suggested he wasn't innocent until proven guilty. I'm sorry, I hope I don't come across as harsh but this makes me so angry. No-one has suggested that 'innocent until proven guilty' does not apply, no one.

NickiFury Wed 21-May-14 15:09:42

You do not appear harsh but I can't agree with you. He's been accused of something that he will probably never be free of, even if proved innocent, at this point he is NOT guilty, he should not have to give up
something that is probably a huge part of his life until he is.

I say this as someone who is personally affected by the issues but would prefer not to go into detail on this thread.

meandjulio Wed 21-May-14 15:13:12

Rape victims or rape survivors? I don't believe that the fact that someone has been raped automatically makes them a vulnerable person forever in all circumstances.

I've just read the article again. He's not even been charged yet.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 15:14:09

I respect that you don't want to go into detail, and please don't feel you have to respond. I hope you're ok.

I don't think it is treating him as guilty. See it this way - say that 1 in 4 women students (and I don't know how many men) have been raped. How are they meant to feel, if someone who has taken on a prestigious and responsible job feels that his own interests and his career are so important, they come before doing all he can to make sure people do not feel triggered by the thought of rape?

If he had stepped aside, and was then proved innocent, people would be saying he'd set a standard and shown he thought rape survivors were important. He's not showing that.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 15:15:59

meand - what do you mean, rape victims or rape survivors? Different people prefer different terms, it's not my place to choose.

I know he hasn't been charged.

I do believe that people are vulnerable. Sorry, you may not. And yes, not everyone who has been raped will feel the same way. But obviously, since he's been asked to step down and since the open letter exists, many people do feel this way. Their feelings should count.

FairPhyllis Wed 21-May-14 15:18:45

He can hardly function properly as president if speakers (like the Interpol Secretary General to name one) are pulling out because of him. He's damaging the society's events by continuing to stay in place.

He's in a position of power and influence. Rape is a crime that is all about abuse of power. It's thus totally inappropriate for him to continue until this is cleared up.

It's vitally important for women's safe and uninhibited participation in university life that rape is treated as a serious crime and that university societies, particularly one as famous and influential as the Union, do not play a part in rape culture by minimising it and protecting potential perpetrators. If he is charged and subsequently convicted, women will take away the message that the Union didn't give a shit about having a rapist as their figurehead when it could have removed him, and it won't feel like a safe place for them.

Rape culture is such a serious problem that I'm afraid right now stamping it out is more important than his right to continue as president.

I think that suspending or deferring his presidency, if that's possible, would be an OK outcome here rather than resignation.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 15:21:10

I agree, but I think the more important point is, fair, if he's not charged or charged and found innocent, women will still take away the message the Union (or rather, its president, since I understand there's some strong feelings within the Union itself on this) doesn't care.

It's not actually about whether he's guilty or not.

worldgonecrazy Wed 21-May-14 15:22:19

I disagree - he hasn't been charged and should be free to carry on his life as an innocent person. Accusations of rape are horrific for all concerned, and there are those who would see a step aside as an admission of guilt. He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, so in the circumstances he should stay put. His life has been irrepairably damaged already and, at the moment, he is an innocent person.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-May-14 15:23:48

He is free to carry on his life as an innocent person.

But he should stand down.

Accusations of rape are horrific for all concerned. So why should he see being president of the Union as so much more important than the feelings of people who have been raped? There are going to be far more of those people. He should respect that.

AgaPanthers Wed 21-May-14 15:24:48

He looks and sounds like an absolute aresehole, irrespective of the truth of the allegations.

Typical Bullingdon bully. Although it's not called the Bullingdon it's called the Banter Squadron, it appears to be much the same thing.

Progeny of bankers from Chelsea, St Paul's alumnus, he's the archetypal public school twat.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now