Left-wing Cambridge University students say they 'feel unsafe' after Conservatives book out hall for dinner

Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 03/11/2023

- 14:58

Updated: 03/11/2023

- 16:54

Cambridge University Conservative Association warned the student-led letter was an attack on free speech and yet another example of cancel culture

More than 200 Cambridge University students have signed an open letter expressing concern about their “safety” after the Tory association booked out the college’s hall for dinner.

Undergraduates wrote to former Whitehall mandarin Lord Simon McDonald, who is now Master of Christ’s College, about the Cambridge University Conservative Association booking the ornate hall for its annual “Chairman’s Dinner” on November 25.

However, trainee solicitor Ossie Visick penned a lengthy letter to Lord McDonald questioning why CUCA was allowed to book the hall when it is used for the college’s “Bridgemas” celebrations on the same date every year.

Visick, who is president of Christ’s Junior Common Room, opened his letter by highlighting concerns about CUCA’s dinner overlapping with “Bridgemas” and claimed the senior tutor did not grant approval.

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The history student went on to reveal that students have “raised concerns” about feeling “unsafe” due to CUCA’s “polarising reputation”.

A number of prominent politicians have been members of the 102-year-old society, including Home Secretary Suella Braverman and former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Visick cited incidents of alleged “misogyny”, criticism of same-sex marriage and a motion suggesting some members would “pre-emptively strike Iran” as particularly problematic.

“We as signatories,” Visick explained, “do not have a grievance in this instance with CUCA’s political beliefs; we object to their disrespectful and insensitive behaviour and would not hesitate to treat any other society, politically orientated or not, with similar disapproval.”

He added: “The college needs to balance its commitment to freedom of speech with its commitment to making our students feel safe, valued and respected.

An image from a previous CUCA Chairman's Dinner

An image from a previous CUCA Chairman's Dinner


“We, as students, are unwilling to give a platform to such distasteful and inflammatory debates that only spread harm, especially during such a traumatic time for our students with links to the Middle East.”

However, CUCA claimed the booking date was suggested to the association rather than requested.

CUCA also warned the student-led letter was an attack on free speech and yet another example of cancel culture.

A spokesman for the association said: “The real issue is that Christ’s College JCR failed to secure the November 25 for their dinner.

“This is a shame – however we were offered this date by, and did not seek it from, Christ’s College in April.

A copy of the letter sent to Lord Simon McDonald

A copy of the letter sent to Lord Simon McDonald


“The booking was made in keeping with Christ’s policies, as has been confirmed by the Senior Tutor, and any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.

“In response to these scheduling concerns, conservative students and CUCA are being accused of a great number of unsavoury things, many of which are baseless, and some of which are from so many years ago that they have nothing to do with the current student body – no current members were present when they allegedly happened, making it impossible for us to address them."

They added: “Evidently, this is nothing to do with CUCA, concerns of safety, debating the Middle East, or any other issue possible to conceptualise next.

“This is about free speech, cancel culture and the fact the JCR administration feels undermined.

“Fortunately, Christ’s College have confirmed that our dinner will be going ahead – we are really looking forward to hosting members, alumni, and conservatives in general on the November 25.”

An image of Ossie Visick

An image of Ossie Visick


A statement from Christ College’s senior tutor clarified much of the situation by confirming the approval process was followed.

It said: “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.”

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