Now, in the last few days, news has circulated that the former disgraced IMF chief Dominique-Strauss Kahn, is to attend Oxford University on the 9th of March, as a guest speaker on the topic of economics and the world global market.
My initial reaction was no.I do not want a repugnant and warped man with a dangerous attitude towards women, grace the stage of a prestigious educational institution and felt very betrayed by the Oxford Union.
This is a man who has a number of criminal charges against him:rape, sexual assault, corruption , and participating in an international prostitute orgy. There are just far too many reasons to cancel this guest appearance.
In the aftermath of the announcement, the Cambridge Union has received intense pressure from women’ s groups, and a petition to revoke the invite.
In my opinion, I feel that there are many more famous, established, deserving and reputable figures that should be given the opportunity to speak at the legendary academic college.
However, there is the other side of the argument. Oxford University has a famous penchant for controversy.
In the past, famous Holocaust denier and historian David Irving, and Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right UK political party BNP, were both invited to give their judgements on free speech.Also, we all remember when Iranian president Ahmadinejad was invited to Columbia University to give a speech, much to the chagrin and protests of people.Universities enjoy such exposure,such a challenge,push the envelope of what is considered the norm, because they like to exercise the ‘freedom of speech’ right for all, ‘regardless of ideology or personal history’, as Freya Berry, an Oxford student, explains in her article below:
Katie Lam, president of the Cambridge Union, says the reason is more prosaic – the union “has been inviting Strauss-Kahn since early 2010, before his IMF resignation”, and only recently received a positive answer.
She also stresses the organisation’s impartiality: “As far as the union is concerned, all it is and all it can be is a completely neutral forum for free speech.”
So the timing is simply chance?
But Lam’s insistence that people are invited “regardless of ideology or personal history” is not going down well with students. Student union women’s officer Ruth Graham points out that since the invitation to Strauss-Kahn was first issued, his profile “has changed as a consequence of these revelations” and argues that his presence on campus would “legitimise his role in public life at a time when he is yet again being questioned by the police”. Her campaign to disinvite him has so far attracted over 600 signatures.
So, the moral of the story is: Oxford has been a platform for holocaust deniers and Nazi supporting fascists,and a man accused of a number of sexual assaults should be no different under the right of freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. If the tuition fees rise has proved anything, it’s that students can get moving when we really feel strongly about something. The question is whether students who cherish their own right to protest should also allow DSK his opportunity to speak.