Abortion debate goes national: we round up the arguments on both sides

Here are some of the arguments for and against the debate and who weighed in…

It all started with this:

Not long after, plans for “disrupting” the event began to form…

And Christ Church students made statements for and against the event being held…

Bigger dogs began to weigh-in….

The New Statesman pointed out that the two men would be discussing a “medical procedure neither of them will ever need, which prevents a life-changing event that will never happen to them”

The event was cancelled:

Wadhamite Niamh Mcintyre argued in support of the cancellation, saying that her “uterus isn’t up for discussion”.

“The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups”

“It would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body”

But OSFL hit back…


The (inter)national press jumped on board…

The National Review got really wound up, calling the protesters “witless exhibitionists who run semi-literate magazines” and “ghastly little authoritarians”.

Tim Stanley declared free speech “under assault on campus” and Brendan O’Neill’s publication Spiked labelled the opponents of the debate a “censorious mob”.

Uh oh, here comes the Spectator…

Do you think the debate should have been cancelled? Comment below with your views…



The Oxford Uni Conservative Association wholeheartedly embraced their male-dominated stereotype last week with  only three female students turning up to their Termly Dinner. 25 students… Read More ›


Magdalen student Elsa Field, who came under fire at the start of term for a controversial article in the St John’s Gender Equality Festival zine, has hit back at critics who called her transphobic.


It’s fair to say Louisa Manning, a Peter’s lass, was surprised when the boy who made her teen years hell asked her out on a date.… Read More ›


The new Union President is terrified of the internet. Or something.

People, Uncategorised:

Dating apps letting you down every day? Crowded clubs not providing you with the lover you crave? Fear not: Versa has got it sorted


The Union election has got messy for a different reason this term.

People, Uncategorised:

We interviewed the man behind Michaelmas’s biggest controversy to find out the real reason behind THAT stray shit.


The Tories and the Lib Dems were left hanging last Friday after Labour refused to join in their traditional cross-party crewdate.

People, Uncategorised:

Every time an Oxford scandal erupts, everyone goes on and on about how Oxford students will be running the country some day. But who exactly will be running the country? Versa has done the digging and picked out our best bets as to who exactly will be packing the front benches at Westminster. Thank us in 30 years.


This guy turned up to an Oxford French Society Cheese and Wine night and smashed out some stellar drunken operatic falsetto. I don’t know about you, but we’re definitely going to be attending French Soc from now on.

Our attitude to mental health is fucked up and wrong

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been diagnosed with a veritable plethora of ‘mental illnesses’. Clinical/severe/manic depression. Anorexia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa. Asperger’s syndrome. Bipolar disorder, for a while. Anxiety disorder. Dissociative amnesia disorder. Borderline personality disorder (or, as the consultant so helpfully phrased it, ‘emotionally unstable personality disorder’) – that’s the latest. It’s also, for whatever it’s worth, the only one I think is accurate. But that’s tangential.

The point is that, since the age of about ten or eleven, I’ve hurt myself on purpose. From age sixteen I started calorie-counting, and forcing my stomach up after every meal I couldn’t escape. I have scars on my arms, hips, hands (and am good at lying). I’ve made it through three suicide attempts. Two resulted in hospitalisation, and the third resulted in my unconsciousness for about four days – nauseous and hallucinating, unable to leave my bed or properly wake. I told my parents I was hungover.

I take an antidepressant of a dose that’s intended exclusively for long-term inpatients. I take tranquillisers every night so I can sleep. Sometimes I sleep for days at a time; sometimes I take sedatives back-to-back just so I don’t have to be awake. I dream about dying. But I don’t feel much; not without the aid of alcohol or other substances, anyway.

In brief – suboptimal.

Now. Surely these criteria qualify me, at least a bit, for being “mentally ill”. Surely, at this point, you (a kind and concerned friend) are dying to pack me up in a little box of diagnoses and ship me off to a(nother) therapist. Surely I need to take a break and look after myself and, you know, just work through some stuff.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

Well. Actually, no. Because there’s nothing wrong with me. Of course, that sounds hilarious given the above. You want to say that of course there’s something wrong with me, of course there bloody is, it’d be obvious to a blind man on a galloping horse.

And I would tell you to reconsider. In fact, I’d get down on my knees and beg you to reconsider. I’d like you to tell me why you think it’s acceptable to brand my self – my actual self – as ‘disordered’. I’d like you to sit down and explain why you think that there’s a cure for my character. I’d like to know which parts of my personality are wrong.

The blackly comic part of all this is that it’s often the most vehement in their hatred of stigma who end up entrenching it furthest. Every time you demand equal respect and consideration for the ‘mentally ill’ – every time you insist that the ‘mentally ill’ are marginalised, underrepresented, socially disadvantaged – you are reinforcing the idea that they’re wrong. That they’re somehow deficient, inferior, subordinate. This is even more distressing when it comes from those who have their own experience of ‘mental illness’; those who’ve battled (and overcome!) depression, or another ‘disease’.

There’s something paradoxical about how we view the phenomenon: on the one hand, it is something to accept, to treat in the sad-but-resigned way that we treat physical illness. On the other it is something that, with struggle of will and support of friends, can be overcome.

It isn’t as pretty as this.

There are plenty of reasons for our fucked-up attitude towards it; one of the biggest is that ‘mental health’ can mean absolutely anything – in the same way that ‘physical illness’ can mean anything, from a broken leg to terminal cancer . But we don’t actually use the phrase ‘physical illness’, except when discussing ‘mental illness’. That’s because talking about bodily problems as though they were all of a single kind is, plainly, absurd. But we do talk about mental health as if it were a single kind. And, in this case, careless words actually do cost lives.

It could be a tragicomedy. Those with best intentions are so often those with least understanding. They want me, and others in positions like mine, to be able to recover. To recover from what? I don’t know. They never seem to say. Recover from being sad. Recover from seeing the world in such a distorted way.

But – and this is the crux of it – I don’t see the world in a distorted way. My eyes aren’t broken. My senses are all in working order. My world is, very simply, different. It is (or was, pre-drugs) the most beautiful place I could imagine. I love other people, friends and strangers both, in a way so fierce and passionate that it fills my whole body with heat and adrenaline. To me, they are the most divine and lovely people and my adoration for them is as big as the sky.

That kind of love is, obviously, expensive.

I’m not ill. I’m just me. And I suffer – but I’m not broken. Don’t you dare tell me that there’s something wrong with who I am, or what I feel, or how my world is. Don’t you dare say that I’m ill.

Psychological difference has been pathologised for centuries – and still we’ve learnt nothing.

That, more than any of the shit I’ve been through, breaks my heart.

*name has been changed

Tags: bpd — depression — mental health — mental illness — Oxford

It’s time to stop wearing clothes and waxing your vagina. I’m starting a garment-free revolution

The other day I was getting ready for an intersectional feminist spoken-word night at Cellar when I had something of an existential crisis. Don’t worry – I just meditated for a while and it was fine. I thought I’d gotten over it, but then something worse happened. When I got to Cellar, the night was kind of ruined by the presence of ‘lad’ culture, as I think I saw this boy wearing an American football t-shirt that didn’t seem very ironic. Not OK. My earlier crisis had been brought on by a realisation I came to when I opened my wardrobe: all clothes are gendered. I mean, I’m a big fan of American Apparel’s unisex section, and of course most of my clothes are reclaimed – but even these are to some extent gendered.

The very fact that these have to be called ‘unisex’ is pretty ridiculous. Dressing as another gender may appear to subvert the gender binary, but you are wrong. ‘Shirts’ and ‘blouses’, even if worn by a gender other than the one the garment was created to oppress, are still emblematic of this oppression. Similarly, most clothes shops have men’s sections and women’s sections. Could it be any more heteronormative? It’s just ridiculous.

Obviously, we are all aware of the abusive nature of corsets, foot binding, and bras. These have contributed to the subjugation of women ever since Eve got framed and we were all forced to wear clothes by the greatest patriarchal bastard of them all, God. If we all know this, then why do we insist on supporting clothes and their oppressive power? It is not just the physical pain of female clothing, but the symbolic subordination that essentially turns all garments into mechanisms for oppression. Even the very fact that buttons are on one side or the other is symbolic of that pesky binary. I don’t think I need to spell it out any clearer. Why do we continue in this practice that reinforces the enslavement and suffering of others?

I have one solution: stop wearing clothes. Obviously this doesn’t need to be said, but just in case: certainly don’t buy them. Instead, we should all wear shapeless sacks. These will act as a safe space, away from all the body pressures that cripple so many in this consumerist society in which we live. All gender distinctions will be faded away into the shapeless sacks, allowing us to live in total freedom from the structural oppression of heteronormativity.

So why don’t you stop waxing your vagina and buying fake eyelashes (though not the ironic orange feather kind, of course) and start fucking the patriarchy? We can change the world. Just stop buying clothes, and more importantly: stop wearing them. Join me in my boycott and occupation of all apparel vendors!

We’re starting this revolution tomorrow at 9.30am on Cornmarket Street, and shapeless sacks will be provided free of charge (after all, I don’t believe in the price mechanism). We will begin a movement that will be remembered forever and for which our future genderless siblings will thank us. And I bet it will really piss off my rich dad, who refused to pay for a shirt I really wanted. Take that, patriarchy. No shapeless sack for you!

Disclaimer: AshQ is not actually a real Oxford student and the name “AshQ” does not refer to any person. Obviously.

Tags: AshQ — clothing — oppression

Eight innocent Magdalen freshers got deaned after someone shat in their bathtub at a party

A fun-filled fresher house party at Magdalen took a turn for the worst when a mysterious shitter defecated in the bathtub and caused the house’s residents to be hauled in front of college authorities.

According to reports from party-goers, the festivities were still well underway through the early hours of the morning, with students from several other colleges present. It was not until after the revellers had left, and the hosts had gone to bed, that their unsuspecting scout discovered the faecal matter in a bathtub while cleaning.

The eight residents of the house were called in front of Magdalen’s deans earlier this Michaelmas, but no action was taken, other than a ten minute talking-to and an order to clean up the offending article. One of the party’s hosts said the deans were “very understanding” about the whole incident, despite the nature of the offence and the fact it is not a common occurrence.

After close inspection of the Magdalen rules, however, it appears that “cleaning of the Accommodation and the Common Parts” comes under the banner of services provided by the College, with Common Parts defined as “any shared facility such as kitchen, bathroom, common or other room allocated to the Accommodation”. Bathtub bowel movements were not included under “cleaning”.

Oxford’s first Twitter-shitter? The culprit gets a taste of the university’s bitchy social media culture

The incident has already been branded “Shitgate” by students at the college. The party pooper has not yet come forward.

Speculation abound over the identity of the faecal phantom remains. The host who spoke to Versa said: “The word on the street is that it was someone from Univ, but that’s completely unsubstantiated.

A Magdalen student said: “Some people are claiming it was aliens, or a big hoax like the moon landings. Someone even suggested it was a Brookes student with a chip on their shoulder. It’s all just like a shit Poirot episode really.”

“Regardless, one question still remains: why? Why would someone defecate in another man’s bath? A bath is a sanctuary, a haven, a safe place from the world. Was it just LAD banter? a political statement against Oxford University, or Magdalen College specifically? Were they just so drunk they’d thought they’d found the world’s biggest toilet?”

Are you the Phantom Shitter of Magdalen? Tell us your story in the comments below…

Photo: Steve Cadman

Tags: freshaaaars — Magdalen — party — shit

Howe and Roberts neck-and-neck in OUSU presidential race

An exclusive opinion poll conducted for Versa is predicting that OUSU favourite Becky Howe is facing a threat from independent candidate Adam Roberts in this week’s election, which is set to end tomorrow.

Both Roberts and Howe saw 17 per cent of respondents select them as their preferred candidate for president in the poll (conducted by a specialist team of Oxford mathematicians), while the other candidate – Will Obeney – drew in only 7 per cent.

The polling team conducted a survey on Monday before polls opened, asking a random sample of 500 students via email about their voting intentions. The sample was weighted by college, department, grad/undergrad status, and other demographic characteristics. Response rate was at about 10%, similar if a little lower to the usual turnout for OUSU elections.

Howe, ex-JCR President at Pembroke, declared her candidacy early, and for some time rumours abounded that she would be unopposed for the Presidency. Roberts is running with a flagship policy of offering a student-wide vote on OUSU policy once a year.

Despite heading up the largest slate on the ballot, Obeney seems to have been left behind. Graduate support for him was almost non-existent.

Presidential voting intentions: non-voters can be arsed to fill out our survey, but not the real thing

Versa’s poll also showed that turnout is set to be very low, with more than a third of respondents declaring that they “do not intend to vote” for President – despite bothering to fill out a survey about their candidate preferences.

Graduates especially appear to lack voting enthusiasm, with almost 60 per cent of participants not planning on going to the polls.

Surprisingly, given OUSU’s low popularity, few people are aggrieved enough with the institution to vote RON (re-open nominations), with only 2 percent planning to do so for the presidential candidates.

However, almost one quarter of respondents replied that they had not yet decided on their preferred candidate, so there is still time for one of the candidates to pull ahead.

In the sabbatical officer races, Flora Sheldon seems to be the favourite for the Academic Affairs position, coming in at 28 per cent, with Cat Jones trailing at seven per cent and Greg Auger and Eden Bailey at five and six per cent respectively.

The Vice Presidents for Women and Welfare are both unopposed (with RON their only threat), as well as all trustees and NUS delegates – for whom (controversially) there is no RON option.

Grads showed little desire even to vote for their own representative, with almost three quarters saying that they either wouldn’t vote Graduate VP or were intending to but hadn’t yet decided who for. Out of the grads who actually cared enough to have a preference, Nick Cooper received most of the vote.

This year’s election, which lacks both the excitement of Louis Trup’s joke candidacy and the hackiness of the Westbury-Rutland battle of 2012, has been described as “boring” and “irrelevant”.

Alex Bartram, the candidate who came second-to-last last year, recently wrote in Cherwell that he worries about “another sub-15% election” and “some positions might be becoming too unassailable”.

Is the tide turning on Becky Howe?

What do you think about OUSU candidates? Who will win the election?
Comment below with your views….

What Louis Trup’s hot beverage choices say about him

Over at OUSU Towers, they’ve got a pretty good system going for letting each other know what they want in their mugs at tea time:

“Imo” likes her tea “Strong (Long time brewed) with some milk”, while “Matt” has a very unusual way of consuming his mid-morning refresher: “Tea drank through a Twix (ends bitten off).” VP (Women) Anna Bradshaw specifically requests “almond milk” (niche), while everyone’s favourite Welfare tsar Chris Pike will sup any type of tea “but never with milk”. OK Chris – if we ever get invited over, we’ll leave the four-pinter of semi-skimmed at home.

Louis Trup, however, is not fussed at all. “Likes all tea. Likes all coffee. Likes all other things.” Hmm. Sounds like Louis doesn’t want to upset anyone, or leave anyone out. Noble, but foolish. Top tip to Trup: people might want to feel included and loved, but boxes of Earl Grey don’t give a shit…

Tags: Louis Trup — OUSU — refreshments — tea

I never pay VAT at Itsu. Does that make me a dirty tax-dodger?

Feeding hacks since 2014

Owing to my continued status as my college’s friendless ex-hack with no desire to attend Hall meals, I am one of a growing number of Oxford students who ends up in Itsu shortly before closing time every other night. I whap out my Bod card faster than you can say “salmon teriyaki” and take full advantage of half-price, student-discounted, Asian-influenced goodness.

But recently I was informed that my nightly indulgence in a garden shed salad with al dente beans might have a sinister side I had never considered. Alas, no longer are these dishes from the Itsu fridge of heaven just smorgasbords of Oriental delight: they are potentially mechanisms for large-scale tax-avoidance, and they may even be forcing the state into bankruptcy and financial ruin. Or something like that.

You see, owing to my continued dissatisfaction with the state’s desire to rob me of an extra 50p every time I want a fucking overpriced cold salad – and like all rational beings who are not self-righteous enough to financially flagellate themselves in front of the Exchequer when fulfilling the biological need to eat – I almost always tell the harassed-looking server that yes, I want my fridged bento box to take out, and then no, I do not take out. As soon as I turn away from the till, I almost always go and sit in the nice warm restaurant to eat, saving myself the extra 20% that the government charges indoor eaters to pay for civil service salaries and primary school children’s milk. Take that, kids.

This habit was inspired in me by a fellow tax-dodging Versa contributor, who once sagely informed me that “it’s not Itsu who cares, it’s just the government”. It’s just the government. That’s all it is. However – law-abiding citizen that I hope to be – I decided to check my legal status. Typing “Am I tax-evading by eating muki beans and furikake” into Google got me nowhere, but after some refined searching the helpful folks at Durham University were able to inform me in a paper that pen-pushers at HMRC told businesses: “You must always charge VAT at the standard rate if you make a supply of food and drink for consumption on the premises on which it is supplied.” So far, so tax-dodgy. That’s my tangy tuna “on a bed” getting all up in George Osborne’s grill. But am I personally liable if I lie to the server and say I’m leaving, then sneak over to the seats behind their back?

The tax collectors have the answer. A handily-named government document – “What is VAT fraud?” – quite clearly states several types of VAT fraud, all of which are relevant only to the “taxable person” (the business) and none of which include chomping down a salmon and tuna tartare on the sly. So, thankfully, Itsu is the party which is liable for failing to stump up the cash. I can enjoy my insufferably middle-class salads at a reduced price safe in the knowledge that it is Itsu, not me, which is contributing to the closure of hospitals and dismissal of social workers. While I walk down Cornmarket back to college with that extra saved 50p jangling in my pocket, I have a fully clear conscience, and a fully satisfied stomach. What a good citizen.

Tags: Hacks — itsu — tax dodging