Christ's students at a JCR Open Meeting overwhelmingly did not want to welcome CUCA, a society that held the debate 'This House Would Pre-emptively Strike Iran', into their collegeJorge Royan / Wikimedia Commons

180 students at Christ’s College have signed an open letter signalling their outrage at the College’s decision to hold a Conservative student event rather than host its annual Bridgemas formal.

The Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) have booked Christ’s College’s formal hall for their annual ‘Chairman’s Dinner’ on the 25th of November, the date that Bridgemas formals for Colleges across the University are normally held.

Students have raised concerns regarding safety at the CUCA dinner, as some spoke of their fears of the Association’s treatment of women and ethnic minorities at a JCR meeting.

The letter notes that students have “spouted” misogyny and “criticised same-sex marriage” at past CUCA events.

The letter was written by JCR President Ossie Visick, and is addressed to the Master, Simon McDonald. Christ’s students were informed of the situation by Visick on Saturday morning (28/10), and 43% of the college’s undergraduates have since signed the letter.

This letter comes two weeks after CUCA held a “Port and Policy” debate around the motion “This House would pre-emptively strike Iran”. This debate motion was included in CUCA’s Fresher’s Guide, which was published on 18th September. Despite the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, the debate went ahead on the 14th October.

The letter commented, “It goes without saying how inconsiderate and thoughtless this incitement of violence is to Iranian members of our college community.” CUCA’s advertisements for Port and Policy suggest the debates are “good for maintaining your mental wellbeing [...] and your sense of humour”.

The Senior Tutor has booked the College’s Formal Hall on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of November for the next three years in response to student complaints. Despite several meetings between the Senior Tutor and the JCR President since the 30th of September, the College has not moved next month’s booking.

The letter questioned why Christ’s “seems reluctant to reconsider” the event booking, when “our interests as members of the college been subjugated to the interests of an external society”.

The letter argues that the College’s unwillingness to reconsider CUCA’s booking could suggest that they are willing to platform conversations like the Iran debate motion “during such a traumatic time for our students with links to the Middle East”.

The letter also says that CUCA has a history of controversy, and that hosting the society brings “reputational risk” to Christ’s that the College is not taking “seriously enough”.

The letter also claims that the Chairman’s Dinner was booked illegitimately. Based on conversations with the College’s Senior Tutor, Tom Monie, the JCR believed that external society dinners required approval from the Senior Tutor, which, in this instance, Monie had not given.

However, following the publication of the open letter, the Senior Tutor learned that when external society dinners do not feature an external guest speaker, they do not require approval from the Senior Tutor.

In previous years, CUCA’s Chairman’s Dinners have featured a guest speaker, but CUCA has not yet announced a guest speaker for this year’s event.

An email seen by Varsity confirms that, when the University Labour Club (CULC) attempted to book Christ’s Formal Hall for a dinner last year, they were required to obtain the permission of the previous Senior Tutor.


Mountain View

I’m ‘not nervous’ about a Labour landslide, MP tells Tory students

On Saturday, the JCR held an Open Meeting with a record attendance of 56 undergraduates, and all who spoke expressed disapproval that CUCA’s booking had been allowed to stand. Several students echoed the JCR’s concern that an external society had been prioritised over Christ’s’ student body.

Some students suggested that hosting CUCA posed potential harm to the student body, especially female students, LGBTQ+ students, and students from ethnic minority backgrounds. One asked whether the society could also be prohibited from entering the Buttery, Christ’s college bar.

Another student emphasised that, for him, this wasn’t an issue with Conservative ideology, but that he found the Iran motion particularly offensive.

The upcoming Chairman’s dinner is a four-course meal costing £90, and is described on CUCA’s website as a “lavish” occasion “during which the Chairman officially hands over to the succeeding Vice-Chairman.”

The dinner’s guest speakers have caused controversy in recent years. 2018’s guest speaker, journalist James Delingpole, joked about prolific sex offender Jimmy Savile, and about having sex with underage women.

In 2019, the dinner’s guest speaker was UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, who had the party whip removed after remarking that a room debating women in politics was “full of sluts”.

Visick stated that the Senior Tutor had assured that there would be a time limit and alcohol limit on the dinner. CUCA’s website states that the dinner will conclude at 11:50pm.

Senior Tutor Tom Monie told Varsity: “The approval process for a University Society booking in the College was followed. This was booked as a private function and did not require my approval.”

“The CUCA dinner and the JCR Bridgemas events are all still scheduled to go ahead as booked. The College views the safety of its students as being of utmost importance. The College’s usual formal dinner arrangements will be followed,” Monie continued.

The Cambridge University Conservative Association was approached for comment.