This week, among all the other craziness, I had a chance to witness an Oxford Union debate. For those unaware, the Oxford Union is very different from the Oxford STUDENT Union. The Student Union (OUSU) is the student association in charge of clubs, parties, etc. The Oxford Union (The Union) is the debating society that brings speakers to Oxford and hosts a weekly formal debate with students and professionals on the topic at hand.
The Union is pretty new (for Oxford) as it was founded less than 200 years ago in 1823. It is separate from the University itself so that it is not governed by the rules of the University (which at times restricted certain topics of discussion like religion). As a Member of the Business school all 340 MBA students have been given a life-time membership allowing us to attend any event that the Union hosts. This week the debate proposition was “This House Believes the UK Has Surrendered Too Much Liberty in Pursuit of Greater Security” and featured three speakers on each side who for 10 minutes each worked to persuade a hall of 400+ students to either support or oppose the proposition. Truly it was debating at its best.
In the debate were two students (one on each side), Shami Chakrabarti the Director of Liberty (proposition), David Frum Bush 43’s speechwriter (opposition), a professor of liberty at the university – proposition (subbing in for an MP who was called back for a vote) and Dan Hodges a Daily Telegraph journalist – opposition.
The debate will be posted to the Oxford Union’s YouTube page in a few weeks and I encourage you to subscribe to their channel if you are unable to make it to the debates themselves.
For context, the Union’s membership base is roughly 1,200 students per year. At ~400 students, this makes the business school roughly a third of the membership and so the school is working on building a strong relationship with the Union. At no other business school are you going to get such top-notch speakers come each week. In the 8 weeks of Michaelmas Term we have 49 speakers signed up to come speak. Almost every day there is something happening at The Union and it is truly a unique, Oxford experience. I am truly humbled to be getting my MBA at such a fantastic university where in the next 7 weeks we have the following agenda scheduled.
- This House Believes the UK Has Surrendered Too Much Liberty in the Pursuit of Greater Security
- This House Would Legalise the Sale of Human Organs
- This House Would Not Wear the Red Poppy
- This House Would Break Up Media Empires in Defence of Democracy
- This House Believes Britain and the EU are Better Together
- This House Believes the State Should Not Recognise Marriage
- Sir Elton John – Music icon, multiple award winner, philanthropist. The Union’s biggest catch this term.
- Mo Adubu – Talk show host and TV producer, described by Forbes as “Africa’s Most Successful Woman”
- Lord Alan Sugar – Entrepreneur and star of BBC show The Apprentice
- John Amaechi – English retired basketball player who currently works as an educator and broadcaster in Europe and the United States.
- Alesha Dixon – English singer, dancer, rapper, model and television presenter.
- Emily Watson – English actress who gave an acclaimed debut film performance in Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves.
- Eric Cantor – American politician, lawyer and businessman, who served as the United States representative for Virginia’s 7th congressional district from 2001 to 2014.
- Ingrid Betancourt – Colombian politician, former senator and anti-corruption activist.
- Thomas Newman – American composer best known for his many film scores. Newman has been nominated for twelve Academy Awards and three Golden Globes, and has won two BAFTAs, six Grammys and an Emmy Award.
- Joshua Wong – Hong Kong student activist who is the convenor and founder of the Hong Kong student activist group Scholarism.
- Laura Bates – founded the Everyday Sexism Project, which has been described as “one of the biggest social media success stories on the internet” in 2012
- Yinka Shonibare – British-Nigerian artist living in London. His work explores cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation.
- Yanis Varoufakis – Former Syriza Finance Minister and Greek MP.
- Vanessa Redgrave – British film icon, known for Oscar winning performance in Julia (1977)
- Akala – English rapper, poet, and journalist. Originally from Kentish Town, London, his older sister is rapper/vocalist Ms. Dynamite.
- Tim Hartford – English economist and journalist, residing in London. He is the author of four economics books and writes his long-running Financial Times column, “The Undercover Economist”.
- Michel Roux Jr – French-English two-star Michelin chef at the London restaurant Le Gavroche.
- Julius Malema – leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a South African political party, which he founded in July 2013. He previously served as President of the African National Congress Youth League from 2008 to 2012.
- Mark Ronson – British music producer and artist, Number 1 with Uptown Funk
- Andy McNab – Steven Billy Mitchell DCM, MM, usually known by the pseudonym and pen-name of Andy McNab, is an English novelist and former Special Air Service sergeant.
- Nick Robinson – British journalist and former political editor for the BBC.
- Joss Whedon – American screenwriter, film and television director, film and television producer, comic book author and composer.
- Rio Ferdinand – English former professional footballer who played as a centre-back. He played 81 times for the England national football team between 1997 and 2011, and was a member of three FIFA World Cup squads.
- Sir Jackie Stewart – British former Formula One racing driver from Scotland. Nicknamed the “Flying Scot”, he competed in Formula One between 1965 and 1973, winning three World Championhips.
- Lewis Moody – Retired English rugby union player who played most recently for Bath Rugby and was part of the 2003 World Cup winning side.
- Marina & the Diamonds – Welsh singer-songwriter.
- Asifa Lahore – “First Out Muslim Drag Queen.”
- Hozier – Irish singer and songwriter from Bray, County Wicklow. He released his debut EP, featuring the hit single “Take Me to Church”, in 2013 and his second EP, From Eden, in 2014.
- Ruud van Nistelrooy – Retired Dutch footballer and current assistant manager for the Dutch National Football Team. He is the fourth-highest goalscorer in Champions League history with 56 goals.
- Eva Longoria – American actress, producer, director, activist and businesswoman known for starring role in ‘Desperate Housewives.’
- Marianne Faithfull – English singer, songwriter and actress, whose career has spanned six decades. Her early work in pop and rock music in the 1960s was overshadowed by her struggle with drug abuse in the 1970s.
- Fredrik Reinfeldt – Swedish politician who was Prime Minister of Sweden from 2006 to 2014 and chairman of the liberal conservative Moderate Party from 2003 to 2015. He was the last rotating President of the European Council in 2009.
- Lynton Crosby – Australian political strategist who has been described as a “master of the dark political arts,” “the Wizard of Oz,” “the Australian Karl Rove,” and “one of the most powerful and influential figures in the nation”.
- Lance Armstrong – American former professional road racing cyclist. He previously won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005, but was stripped of those victories in 2012 after a protracted doping scandal.
- Kolinda Grabar Kitarović – Croatian politician serving as the 4th President of Croatia since 19 February 2015.
- Celia Imrie – English actress, born and brought up in Guildford, trained at the Guildford School of Acting.
- Frances de la Tour – English actress, known for her role as Miss Ruth Jones in the television sitcom Rising Damp from 1974 until 1978. She is a Tony Award winner and three-time Olivier Award winner.
- Ruby Wax – American born, naturalised British comedian.