Sidney has come under criticism from several groups, including its own student unionLouis Ashworth

Sidney Sussex has responded today after it was criticised for hosting a Christian fundamentalist group, saying the views of organisations who have made private bookings do not reflect the values of the College.

It was reported on Tuesday that Sidney had for the second time hosted ‘The Wilberforce Academy’, a week-long residential course run by Christian Concern, a pressure group which has been accused of homophobia and Islamophobia.

News of the event was met with condemnation from several groups, including both CUSU and Sidney’s own student union, the latter of which launched a petition calling on the College to deny the ‘tacit endorsement’ it said hosting the event gave to Christian Concern’s views. The petition said “it is the duty of college to protect its students from groups which seek to threaten their autonomy as individuals”.

The Wilberforce Academy is a course run by Christian ConcernNoah Froud

Speaking on behalf of Sidney, a University spokesperson said: “We appreciate the concerns this private event booking has created. The College is progressive and inclusive and we benefit greatly from our diverse community and the LGBT+ initiatives within the College. The views and opinions of organisations making private bookings do not reflect those of the College or the wide variety of views held by its staff and students.”

Earlier today, Sidney Sussex College Student Union (SSCSU) released a statement responding to events, saying that it “celebrates the diversity of its student community and strives to make sure all its members feel welcome and accepted”, but that the hosting of the Wilberforce Academy “has compromised the safe and welcoming environment we aim to maintain”.

It continued, “This is because they hold views that deny the very identity of many of our members. This has appalled members of the Sidney community, of all faiths, as well as the wider university”.

“We are naturally advocates of free speech,” the statement said, “but by the same token refuse to tolerate speech which threatens the experience of our colleagues. Whilst conference guests do not reflect the views of Sidney Sussex College, hosting them implicitly provides them with legitimacy that other conference venues would not provide.”