Sunday, 4 March 2012
Exeter College Homophobia
I am LIVID, here, thanks to the most egregious breach of LGBT rights in Oxford that I can remember. I'm not a tremendous banger of the gay rights drum personally (I used to feel quite lukewarm about gay marriage, for example) but current events have me hopping mad.
It's common for Oxford colleges to make cash in the holidays by renting out student rooms and their facilities as conference venues. Exeter college, which is right next door---I can practically touch it from my kitchen window---has, in its wisdom, signed a contract with a Christian group of such staggering nastiness that it leaves me speechless. 'Christian Concern'---forgive me not linking to the scumsucking bastards---will be descending on Exeter in the next few weeks, for dinners in hall and all sorts of jolly discussions. No doubt of things like 'corrective therapy' for gay people, which they have publicly supported---A QUACK 'THERAPY' WHICH CONSISTS OF THE TORTURE OF VERY VULNERABLE PEOPLE, let's not forget---and how they can carry on opposing every single advance in human rights for LGBT people tabled in the UK or US.
This is not a free speech issue, as this kind of organisation usually tries to claim. I think their views are repellent and damaging but they are welcome to hold them. But what should never have been allowed is that they should have been given a forum by a constituent college of the University of Oxford, complete with the patina of respectability that confers. The University makes it absolutely clear that it opposes discrimination, values diversity, and works to provide a space where LGBT students and staff can feel safe. I doubt I'll feel very safe with people scheming ten yards from my flat to get my human rights rolled back, or get me sacked because of my sexual orientation, or liken me to a paedophile, thanks (all things which Christian Concern and its allied bodies have supported). How is it possible to 'value' your LGBT staff and students and allow this?! What were Exeter thinking?!
Exeter's Rector, an apparently fundamentally incurious economist called Frances Cairncross, seems to have shown no understanding at all in her public statements of the seriousness of the situation in which she finds herself. There needed to be a grovelling apology and a cancellation, immediately. Instead, Cairncross---who seems adept at pouring soothing oil onto troubled flames---released a statement of stump-like immovability, saying, effectively: 'they've agreed to abide by our rules while they're in College, but we're not going to check.' Perhaps we'll see neo-nazis at Exeter next, hosting conferences on the enduring value ofThe Protocols of the Elders of Zion. After all, the College has to make money somehow, and if such people abide by the College's rules while they are under its roof, what's the problem?
The bottom line: if Cairncross is not considering her position as Rector, she damn well should be.