Critics said the decision was ‘tone-deaf’ and ‘disgusting’ Flickr

The Cambridge Union have defended the decision to hold a debate on the Ukraine invasion despite a wave of online backlash.

The criticism was sparked when the Union announced last Thursday (24/2) that they would hold an “urgent” debate entitled: “This House would send troops to Ukraine” in light of the Russian invasion.

James Vitali, the Union president, wrote: “On behalf of the society, I would like to express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine in the face of this brazen act of Russian aggression, and I would particularly like to extend my deepest sympathies to Ukrainian students at the University during this time.”

The decision was met with a wave of backlash online.

In a popular post on Camfess, an anonymous Facebook submissions page, one user wrote that the motion was “tone-deaf and disgusting”.

They asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to hold some sort of reflection on Ukraine and hear from Ukrainian students rather than hold a debate- which I presume is only for the conceited students who imagine dabbling in foreign policy one day?”.

Another wrote that the Union should be “ashamed” of the decision.

“This constant, relevancy-hungry capitalisation of current events degrades the values of the Union and, to be very honest, perpetuates another generation of leaders who will simply show no empathy for the realities of human suffering.”

Former Student Union president 2018-19, Evie Aspinall, wrote on Twitter that the Ukraine invasion “isn’t an edgy debate topic to get traction for your society. Real lives are at stake. Read the room.”

However, in a Facebook post yesterday (28/2), the Union defended and explained the decision.

“The society remains steadfast in its commitment to promoting conversation and dialogue on the campus, even when these things are hard.


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“We look forward to doing precisely this on Tuesday evening with the seriousness and solemnity that the situation deserves, and we are delighted that so many members have got in contact expressing their desire to speak.

They cited similar debates held in the past as evidence that what the society was doing was nothing out of the ordinary.

“Last year, we debated the situation in Afghanistan. In 2003, we debated the invasion of Iraq just weeks before troops were deployed. Just after the 11th of September attacks in 2001, we debated a military response against Al Qaeda. We debated the war effort against the Nazis throughout the Second World War. The situation in Ukraine is of equivalent gravity.”

“We continue to believe that what we do matters, not merely because of what is said in our chamber, but because debate and conversation about issues in politics and public life are pillars of a healthy democracy.”

The debate – which is also open to non-members – will go ahead as planned tonight from 7pm.