Oxford Union’s president has said the university’s student union is following a “worrying trend” by banning the historic debating society from freshers’ fair.

Since inviting the gender critical professor Kathleen Stock to speak at the Union on May 30, Oxford Union has received a backlash from students and the LGBTQ+ society.

The academic’s opinions have provoked controversy within the transgender community in the past, but Ms Stock has insisted she is not transphobic.

Oxford Mail: Professor Kathleen StockProfessor Kathleen Stock (Image: Oxford Mail archive)

Several Oxford Colleges including St Edmund Hall, Mansfield, Christ Church, St Anne’s and St Hilda’s have passed motions condemning the talk.

However, after the LGBTQ+ society released a statement which said it was “dismayed and appalled” at the invitation to Ms Stock, the former University of Sussex lecturer accused the society’s statement of containing “several falsehoods” and said it was “probably defamatory”.

Matthew Dick, president of the Oxford Union since March 10, told the Oxford Mail freedom of speech was “not under threat” because the debating society remained “firm in its convictions that upholding freedom of speech was the right thing to do”.

Oxford Mail: President of the Oxford Union Matthew DickPresident of the Oxford Union Matthew Dick (Image: Oxford Union)

Mr Dick said Oxford Student Union’s decision to cut fiscal ties with the Oxford Union and ban it from its freshers’ fair was “worrying”.

He explained: “I do think the student union’s actions are indicative of a worrying trend across universities and it makes it all the more vital that Oxford Union continues to carry on.”

Mr Dick said he was not sure what the financial implications of the student union’s decision were, but he hit back by highlighting that the debating society had pre-existed the student union.

He said: “We existed for nearly 150 years before the university’s student union was created, and I believe we will be here after them as well.”

Mr Dick said the society would continue to “diversify” its revenue streams by continuing to work with YouTube and would do more fundraising to guarantee independence from both the university and the student union.

Oxford Mail: Matthew Dick pointingMatthew Dick pointing (Image: The Oxford Union)

When asked whether students will be able to challenge Ms Stock, Mr Dick said they would be “allowing people to come back to the despatch box” during the debate and have “an automatic right of reply”.

Mr Dick admitted that in the past it may well have been the case that “people felt the Union said it would challenge the speaker but then didn’t live up to that promise”.

It was recently announced by Oxford Union via Facebook that students would be provided with “additional welfare resources” on the evening of Ms Stock’s talk and members will be able to ask questions “anonymously” through a link which will be circulated prior to the day of the event.

Mr Dick said these welfare resources had been misreported in the media and highlighted that providing welfare was as important as safeguarding free speech.

When asked how the society went about choosing their speakers, Mr Dick said people weren’t invited to simply “provoke controversy”.

Mr Dick also dismissed suggestions that the Oxford Union was playing into the culture wars and said Ms Stock’s talk was not about inflaming tensions.

Instead, he said: “Whichever side you are on when it comes to professor Stock, I think the reaction to this event shows it is a very relevant discussion to be had.

“We don’t get chucked into the culture wars but we are a rare institution that stands up for free speech and as a society we are prepared to dive deep into these important discussions.”

When pressed on whether the Oxford Union had a diverse membership, Mr Dick said there was a “very diverse standing committee”.

However, he argued that what was more important was “diversity of thought”.

The Oxford Union has had notable politicians in high office who previously served as the society’s president, including Michael Gove, former prime minister Boris Johnson and Lord William Hague.

Asked whether he planned to follow in the footsteps of these politicians, Mr Dick said it was “too early to say” and he was taking “one thing at a time”.

The Oxford University Student Union has been approached for comment.

The Oxford Mail has contacted representatives of Kathleen Stock for comment.