by Oxford Students for Life
This week, at what feels to be the edge of winter, Michaelmas term at Oxford University is about to begin. Our fledgling society is in need of some new, enthusiastic members, so we head to our first freshers’ fair as Oxford Students for Life.
Freshers’ fair is a university run event in which hundreds of societies from the Student Newspapers to Salsa clubs, the famous Oxford Union to the Harry Potter Society, set up stalls and attempt to explain what they do and persuade new students to join up. It is a fantastic publicity event which we were so pleased to be a part of.
Our stall looked fantastic, even if we do say so ourselves… A banner, term cards, photographs of events, quotations and facts. However, we were nervous about the event. Many pro-life groups have experienced persecution and ridicule on such occasions at other universities. We were prepared for the worst, taking a great deal of care over the material which we presented on stall, ensuring that it was sensitive and appropriate, whilst being true to our cause.
The experience was an overwhelmingly positive; one of our committee members commented on how “open-minded” everyone was. There was hardly a moment in which we were not explaining the society, handing out term cards, or signing people up. It was obvious that the big issues surrounding the beginnings of life and the very end do really matter to people. Approximately we think to have had around two-hundred people sign up to our mailing list, which is utterly wonderful for a small and fledgling society like our own.
On a more negative note however, as unfortunately expected, we did experience a little hostility from the student union. It was insisted we immediately remove information leaflets on the charity LIFE, their helplines and counselling services. The main issue seemed to be with our description of LIFE’s counseling services as non-directive. It was argued that LIFE was a pro-life organization and that its counseling was in every way pointed in this direction. However, LIFE’s website states that their counseling services are entirely non-directive. LIFE does not purport to be a neutral organization, it is of course pro-life, however, as a registered BACP counseling service, its care must be non-directive by the regulations that this organisation enforces. We’ll be working in the future to ensure this issue doesn’t crop up again.
Freshers’ fair was exhausting and extremely challenging. However, it was also a wonderful success, and as our President, Molly, said, “The challenges were what made it interesting.” This was a fruitful first step in growing our society so that we may begin to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of the very youngest and the very oldest, in Oxford, and beyond.