Wednesday was suggested as suitable because it is the day many national universities choose to allow students time to pursue extra-curricular activities.It is also the day that the majority British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) league matches take place in many sports. When asked whether he thought he was representing students’ wishes, Trup responded by citing OUSU’s role as representing students. The agenda for the meeting concedes, “as OUSU has no policy on this, OUSU’s representative, Louis trup, could only speculate as to what students want”. First-year English and French student Emma Millington commented, “The idea of having delegated time where you’re not working is quite radical and could benefit students’ physical and mental health. I have two and half hours of French class on Wednesdays when I would like to go to our college’s Zumba class.” However, she highlighted how the motion may be short sighted in its understanding of the logistics behind the way the university creates its timetables. She said, “If the class wasn’t in the evening it would clash with some English contact hours.” This debate comes in the wake of calls for a reading week, which so far have remained unanswered. A motion was passed by the OUSU Council’s 5th Week meeting on Wednesday 27th May in favour of setting aside time on Wednesday afternoons for students to pursue extra-curricular activities. The policy was proposed by Louis Trup and called for Wednesday afternoons to remain free from any mandatory course commitments. This would allow students “the opportunity to take part in extra-curricular activities”. The motion proposed that these might include taught and research courses. The motion began by mentioning OUSU’s previous adoption of this policy, “OUSU once had policy in support of having Wednesday afternoons free for course commitments for students”. This referenced OUSU’s last affiliation with the idea of free Wednesday afternoons which ended in Michaelmas of 2003. This was because the motion lapsed when no one campaigned in favour of it. Louis Trup, OUSU President and proposer of the policy, told Cherwell, “I’m proud to be bringing this motion alongside the legend that is Hector Bagley. Wednesday afternoons are free in other universities, and it certainly enhances the student experience. “It allows for more people to get involved with extra-curricular activities like sport, which I believe can only be a good thing. That is why I think it should be OUSU policy.” During the meeting he also defended his motion, saying it would “give us more choice”. He also said that students shouldn’t be forced into doing things by timetabling, concluding that “it’s a start to bringing about change”. OUSU’s return to this policy was sparked by a meeting between the President and the University’s Sports Strategic Sub-Committee, where the issue was raised.
Oxford Migrant Solidarity hung a banner of solidarity from the Bridge of Sighs on November 23, as an act to demand equal access to education for migrant students and end complicity in the Home Office’s Hostile Environment policy. The university recently announced a refugee scholarship, decided upon in the education committee’s October meeting, a move which follows the creation of a set of student-led initiative to pilot refugee scholarships in 2016. A university spokesperson earlier commented: “The university is now working with interested parties to create a longer-term sustainable scheme to support students who are forced migrants. We hope to launch this new scholarship later in the academic year,” adding that the pilot scheme would remain open until the new programme is launched. “We’re doing this direct action to call attention to the university’s discriminatory access policy towards students with unsettled status, so that includes people with temporary or limited leave to remain,” said Philomena Willis, chair of Oxford Migrant Solidarity. In a list of demands, Oxford Migrant Solidarity said the university had to “classify students with unsettled status as home students for fees purposes,” as well as “provide a comprehensive advice page on its website for students seeking information about their immigration status,” and that it had to commit to “never invite Immigration Enforcement onto its premises.” The action followed a rally a week earlier, organised in collaboration with the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, the Oxford Living Wage Campaign and the student union Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) as well as the student union Disabilities Campaign. The event aimed to present the demands to the Vice-Chancellor, Louise Richardson, and to “rally for intersectional justice”. The group said they had spoken to student immigration authorities and were trying to set up a meeting with staff immigration authorities, especially given the impact Brexit might have on the future of migrant staff in Oxford. The banner drop, which took place at 12 pm, was a coordinated event with other universities across the country, including York, Loughborough and Liverpool among others. However, after less than fifteen minutes the students removed the banner, following a request from the domestic bursar of Hertford College, which owns the Bridge of Sighs. Wills called the new scholarship “a great step in the right direction,” but said this was contradicted by the fact that “students with unsettled status are still charged international student fees and there’s just an overall lack of financial administrative support.” Students with unsettled status or limited leave to remain face issues due to the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy, a measure first introduced in 2010 to make remaining in the UK as difficult as possible for migrants, which Wills says has been achieved through issues such as unsafe accommodation and a lack of job opportunities. Wills added: “We’re calling on the university to change its policy because if it’s really dedicated to access it has to ensure that they include migrant students as people who are systemically discriminated and targeted by the Home Office and the Hostile Environment.”