Russell Brand, Caitlyn Jenner and Anthony Scaramucci are among other high-profile speakers set to make an appearance this termEva Rinaldi / Alberto Frank / Jdarsie 11

The Cambridge Union Society has today released its termcard for Michaelmas 2017, featuring a variety of speakers in a push to make the society more accessible to both its members and the wider student body.

The line-up features a balance between speakers from the worlds of politics, sport, science and entertainment. In recent years, the Union has come under criticism for line-ups which were seen as male-dominated and divisive, including controversial names such as Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan.

High-profile speakers include Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who was fired by President Donald Trump just 10 days after his appointment, and reality TV star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, who, after identifying as transgender in 2015, has drawn public attention to transgender rights.

Sir Ian McKellen and Baroness Hale, the first female UK Supreme Court President will also make an appearance, as will Game of Thrones stars Dame Diana Rigg DBE and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Tennis veteran Boris Becker, Hans-Adam II, reigning Prince of Liechtenstein and former Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia, Helen Clark and Kevin Rudd respectively, will also stand behind the society’s lectern.

The society asserts that the debate program, which features students and guest speakers, “cements the Union’s commitment to free ideas and speech”. The term will begin with the motion, “This house has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”, to be contested by influential names including Labour MP Mark Hendrick and ex Home Secretary Charles Clarke, against Anna Soubry MP.

Other notable topics include “This house has lost faith in faith”, which will feature Russell Brand alongside religious leaders and other activists, and “This house believes educational institutions should never attempt to restrict freedom of expression”, a proposition to be argued and opposed by student debaters.

On a lighter note, Love Island duo Marcel Sommerville and Gabby Allen with team up with Made in Chelsea’s Georgia Toffolo and Sam Thompson to propose that “This house would rather be on reality TV”.

President Page Nyame-Satterthwaite hailed the line-up as a “product of lots of voices,” and Access Officers Emma Toms and Johari Adjei emphasised their ambitions to make the Union “a more inclusive and better representative space within the University, whose reputation for exclusivity has the damaging impact of alienating many brilliant prospective applicants and incoming students.”

This is reflected by the introduction of the Union+ initiative, which seeks to “go beyond the debates and speaker events” to feature panels, workshops and entertainment available to all members of the University, not just those who have bought membership. The Union has come under criticism in the past for the cost of its membership, which opponents feel is prohibitively expensive. Although reviewed by the society’s President and Access Officers, Lifetime membership stands at £150 and Annual Membership at £99, on discount until midnight on 11th October. After this date, those who do not choose to purchase membership will no longer be able to attend events which do not fall under the Union+ program. Access membership will remain at £99 throughout the year.

There is still a considerable gender imbalance among speakers, with only eleven of twenty-eight identifying as female. This comes despite condemnation of a distinct lack of female speakers last term, where only four of eighteen listed individual speakers were women. There was also strong opposition against a debate entitled ‘This House Would Liberalise Prostitution’, particularly from the CUSU Women’s Campaign, where “rampant rape apologist” Luke Gittos, as they described him, and feminist activist Julie Bindel, were scheduled to speak.

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