Original cover story as it appeared in The Oxford Student (link):


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Sexist slurs at OUCA event

By Carl Lewis

News Editor

The Oxford Student

13/7/10

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SPACE

Less than a week after reaffiliating with the University, Oxford’s Conservative Association has become entangled in a scandal over allegations of sexism at one of its events.oxstucover

Vitus van Rij, a Tory student from King’s College London, allegedly shouted “Kitchen, kitchen, shush up woman, go back to the kitchen” at a female speaker during OUCA’s Port and Policy event on Sunday night at the Oxford Union.

Following van Rij’s remarks, two OUCA members stood and condemned his comments as “despicable and unacceptable,” and Oxford Union President Laura Winwood assured the crowd that “misogyny is not tolerated” on Union premises.

Jocky McLean––an OUCA member who demanded an apology from van Rij in front of the 120 member audience––said he heard van Rij tell the female speaker, Isabella Burton, to stick to “pans and brooms” instead of giving speeches about politics.

“As she continued, [van Rij] started getting louder and louder in an attempt to shut her up. As soon as she finished, I stood up and asked him to apologise to her, and pointed to his disgusting behaviour,” McLean said.

Van Rij left the room after coming under fire from McLean and Winwood for the sexist statements, but returned a few minutes later to his seat.

Winwood said she and others asked van Rij to leave Union premises. The President of the UCL Conservative Association then escorted van Rij out of the room, and he did not return for the remainder of the night.

“The individual was promptly ejected from the room, order restored and the debate continued,” Winwood said.

Burton, the female OUCA member at the podium when van Rij allegedly made the remarks, said she heard about the commotion after it happened and was highly offended by van Rij’s comments.

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WHO IS THIS GUY?

Multiple attempts to reach Van Rij by email and phone over the course of a three day period proved unsuccessful this week.

In addition, a Facebook account in van Rij’s name disappeared from search results after a reporter from this paper attempted to contact him via the social networking site on Monday afternoon.

On his Facebook profile, van Rij listed his favourite quotation as one from Hendrik Verwoerd, a pro-Apartheid Prime Minister from South Africa. The quotation calls for “the preservation of the white man and his state.”

Numerous students have also expressed concern that the way in which van Rij presented himself at the event might have been a deliberate nod to Adolf Hitler.

David Thomas, an OUCA member who attended the event and sat near van Rij, said van Rij was sporting a “Hitler-esque” groomed mustache and slicked back hair.

“It looked as though he was deliberately trying to imitate Hitler with his appearance,” Thomas said.

OUCA President Natalie Shina refused to comment on van Rij’s appearance.

Shina also said OUCA did not invite van Rij to the event.

Shina said van Rij tagged along with members of the Conservative Association of University College London, who she had invited to Oxford to celebrate OUCA’s reaffiliation with the University.

“The UCL Conservatives invited him without my knowledge,” Shina said.

But UCL Conservative Association President Will Hall also denied inviting van Rij.

“We didn’t invite him or anyone else from King’s College, but he may have found out about it from our Facebook group,” Hall said.

Hall said the incident demonstrates a “systematic failure” on the part of the society in ensuring that only invited individuals are allowed to attend events.

“Every group has at least one or two abhorrent individuals, and in the future we need to find a better way to identify ours and ban them from attending events,” Hall said.

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OUCA SECRECY

OUCA President Shina initially refused to acknowledge the incident took place, claiming in an email on Monday that neither she nor 29 other OUCA members in attendance heard anything offensive said.

But after being presented with eyewitness evidence from a reporter, Shina acknowledged the derogatory comments may have been uttered.

Nine students have confirmed to The Oxford Student that they heard van Rij shout the sexist remark.

But many OUCA members refused to talk after the group’s President issued what one senior OUCA member called a “gag order” preventing members from talking about the event.

“She basically told us all to say that we hadn’t heard anything,” said the member, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

Poppy Simister, an ex-officer of OUCA who overheard van Rij’s remark, said she heard about the silencing order from other members and didn’t think it was a good move for OUCA.

“I don’t really understand the strategy of telling everyone not to talk, especially in a case like this where both OUCA and the Union dealt with the incident fairly quickly,” Simister said.

Shina dismissed the claim that she was deliberately gagging members from speaking, and said the society’s constitution dictates that as President only she is allowed to talk to the press.

Shina said both OUCA and the UCL Conservative Society have banned van Rij from all future events after conducting an internal investigation.

Michael Rock, president of the national party’s youth wing, said he did not think the evidence was strong enough to launch an investigation at the time.

Despite having been informed of the Union President’s statement on the event, Rock said he thought the allegations were simply part of a calculated attack on OUCA: “It seems to me that people are just making accusations to make OUCA look bad.”

The claims of sexism come at an unfortunate time for OUCA, which finally won back the “U” in its name and regained formal recognition from the University last Friday. The University had cut ties with OUCA last August after it was revealed that a member told a racist joke at the society’s officer hustings.

A spokeswoman for the National Conservative Party said the party was looking into the allegations, and wanted to stress OUCA is in no way affiliated with the Tory party nationally.

A University spokesman declined to comment on whether proctors would launch an investigation into the incident, or if the University would continue to allow OUCA to use the University’s name.

Story picked-up and co-authored as an exclusive in The Daily Mail (link):


Go back to your kitchen, woman! Sexist heckler in row at Oxford Tories meeting

By Beth Hale and Carl Lewis

The Daily Mail

13/7/10

SPACE


If it was a celebration marking a return to the fold, it didn't quite work out as planned.

Picture 3A year ago Oxford University Conservative Association was banned from using the college title in its name because of a row over racism.

But with that in the past, it was time to resume its affiliation and move on. Or at least it would have been had the association not been plunged into a fresh controversy - this time over sexism.

As a female speaker gave forth in a debate about education, she was taunted by a student shouting 'kitchen, kitchen shush up woman, go back to the kitchen'.

According to one witness, when Oxford student Isabella Burton continued, Vitus van Rij, 18, suggested she stick to 'pan and brooms' instead of giving speeches about politics.

Given that the OUCA president is a woman and there were many women in the 120-strong audience, it is perhaps not surprising that van Rij was given a swift dressing down.

Two male students stood up and condemned his comments as 'despicable and unacceptable'.

Oxford Union president Laura Winwood, who was also present, said three female association members were 'quite distressed' by the outburst.

Van Rij is said to have left the room after coming under fire, but returned a few minutes later, only to be escorted from the premises.

The student sported a tiny moustache and slicked back hair in a severe parting for the evening, which had been billed as a 'port and policy' event.

Quite how he came to be there is something of a mystery. OUCA president Natalie Shina insisted she did not invite the student.

She said he must have tagged along with members of the Conservative Association of University College London, who she had invited to the event.

But UCL said it had not invited van Rij.

As for van Rij himself, he has kept a low profile since student journalists at Oxford University started trying to contact him.

Van Rij is understood to be a member of the War Studies Society at King's in London as well as a member of a university polo club.

OUCA was at the centre of a racism storm last June. During a drunken hustings for the next president for the body, candidates made racist remarks.

The group, whose former presidents include Margaret Thatcher and William Hague, was subsequently barred from using the university name.

Van Rij has since returned to his native Belgium but told about his behaviour, his ex-girlfriend, Suzanne Kimman, 19, rolled her eyes and said: 'It sounds like something he would do.'