Ditch DSK! Cries CUSU Campaign

Harry Shukman

The Union are being urged to drop the term’s highest-profile speaker in a petition led by the CUSU Women’s Campaign.

The CUSU Women’s Campaign has called for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to be disinvited to the Union Society.

Strauss-Kahn is due to address the Society on March 9th, but the Women’s Campaign has urged the Union to withdraw the invitation in an online petition.

The former IMF head quit his position after a New York hotel maid accused him of rape 2011. He has been at the centre of a media frenzy for months and is currently being held by French police investigating a prostitution ring.

The Women’s Campaign accuses the Union committee of a “callous desire to exploit gender crime allegations in the service of controversy.”

“The political decision to host DSK feeds an existent culture of silence and shame around rape, in which alleged perpetrators are given a platform mostly denied to survivors of sexual violence.”

“Free speech is about more than inviting rich, white, powerful (in this case allegedly rapist[sic]) men to define the Union’s termcard year after year.”

The petition has gathered over 240 signatures so far, including someone calling himself Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Union Society President Katie Lam told The Tab that “The Union stands for free speech and providing a neutral platform for it.

“Inviting any speaker doesn’t imply endorsement or indeed disapproval. The only criterion that we consider is whether a speaker will be interesting for our members or not.”

Asked about the claims that rich, white and powerful men consistently make up the Union termcard, Katie said that “the proportion of female speakers has more than doubled. This year is one of the highest proportions we’ve ever had.”

It’s not the first time The Union has faced a backlash for a controversial invitation. Tory Minister Eric Pickles received an angry welcome when anti-cuts protesters stormed the Union last year during his speech.

Have your say in our readers’ poll:

  • Would you rather

    He's a disgusting man, but wouldn't you rather he came so you could say that to his face?

  • Dereck Chisora

    I'm going to literally burn you

    • David Haye

      I am going to PHYSICALLY burn you.

  • What happened to

    innocent until proven guitly?

    • The FA

      John Terry

  • Please stop writing

    boldface "key words". You're insulting the intelligence of anyone over 5.

    • 4(th year)

      Piss off noob. The Tab's always done this. It's a TABloid. They're allowed little gimmicks. In fact, I'd much prefer it if they stopped doing super-serious pieces, and went back to decent satire/mock-sensationalism. If you don't like it, run back to varsity.

      • n(th year)

        Piss off noob. I think I've been at Cambridge some small amount longer you than you, and that gives me the right to treat your opinions as worthless. The crushing emptiness of my life and the fact no-one could possibly love me mean that I have to pretending my year of matriculation validates me. LOLOLOL The Tab is great and is in no way a tired husk of a self-parody.

  • ohhhh

    What a dumb idea, reeking of indulgence and self-interest, and of course it is illegal. If you assassinate him on his way into the union, that will just create a martyr, right?

  • NO!

    Agree with Katie Lam.

    (Also: c.f. Julian Assange…he made it to the Union)

  • Julian Assange

    Imagine letting a rapist speak at the Union!

    • Wankandleak

      While I disagree with the idea of disinviting DSK, I don't think the Assange comparison is really fair. The evidence against him was incredibly flimsy, very suspicious, very likely politically motivated. DSK doesn't sound the same (i.e. the statute of limitations is the only reason he wasn't convicted before).

      That said, the idea that you're a rape apologist for not springing to condemn a man who hasn't been found guilty is pretty unhealthy. I know it's horrible for victims to be doubted, but that has to happen to stop innocent people being condemned on false allegations.

      If I were to say that the CUSU women's officer had raped me, I'm sure she'd object to being fired on that basis. She'd want people to produce evidence first, and as far as I know she hasn't received that evidence regarding DSK.

      Even if there was such evidence, the union isn't obligated to guarantee the moral standing of every speaker – their talks would be extremely limited were that the case. DSK sounds like a piece of shit, and I'm sure he'll be torn apart, but 'denying him a platform' won't really do much.

    • Guest

      CUSU women protested against that too.

    • Also…

      Also, the point is partly that inviting DSK is about the sensationalising of rape and rape allegations. So the comparison doesn't hold, in so much as Assange was invited primarily because of what he had to say about Wikileaks, and the rape allegations, true or untrue, made up a comparatively small part of a larger set of interests and controversies around his work. in DSK's case, whilst of course he's done lots of things other than be (at best) a disgusting sex pest, it is much more the case that his numerous rape/sexual assault/prostitution ring charges are the main point of media/general interest with him at the moment. The question in each case is, would they have been invited if they hadn't been accused of rape. For Assange i think the answer is yes, for DSK i think probably no. And that's the point, innocent or otherwise, this turns rape into something to make media headlines and fill seats, which is disgusting.

      • Former Pres

        DSK was first invited in mid 2010 as President of the IMF, he was reinvited this summer when he looked like a shoe-in to be next President of France. There's some fair points being raised here – but I can honestly tell you he was not invited because of the allegations – we had been in discussions for a long time before then.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer

    What is better than wisedoom? Woman. And what is better than a good woman? Nothing.

    • Rutherford B. Hayes

      the mouse is in the frier. I repeat, the mouse is in the frier. Over and in?

      • Samuel Tilden

        Bet I get more votes than you…

        • Electoral College

          Maybe not…

  • wooobanter

    I learnt at UniLad that it's not rape if you say surprise. I wonder if he ever learnt that trick?

    • shockingly

      piss poor banter

  • Homerton June Event

    It's too simplistic to rely on the court's declaration of innocence. In the New York case, the 'evidence' for acquittal is solely based on rather flimsy questions over the chambermaid's testimony; similarly, the Tristane Banon matter only lapsed due to the French statute of limitations. DSK may be legally 'clean', and therefore must be treated as such in civil society; but at the same time, serious questions remain over his guilt.

    At the same time, disinviting him is completely the wrong thing to do. Presumably, there will be the usual Q+A session after the talk, and as far as I know there have been no declared limitations on content; this is surely a fantastic opportunity for Cambridge's best orators to make him bloody squirm. Disinviting him would be the coward's way out.

    • question

      why the fuck are you called "Homerton June Event"?

      • The Colonel

        In fairness, it's probably the most thumbs up Homerton June Event has ever got..

    • NewYorker

      'Flimsy Questions?' she admitted to lying about prior rapes. Even had her testimony and credibility be unimpeachable, the lack of conclusive physical evidence or corroboration would have resulted in an acquittal.

      A statute of limitations is a necessary check in any court. Banon didn't press charges, or lodge a police report at the time. No other witnesses were interviewed, no physical evidence was collected or examined. The lack of both would make it little more than he said / she said.

  • ISpeakForTheStudents

    HI GUYS! Ehm, it seems as if we haven't occupied anything this term! How about occupying the union when that French alleged rapist comes? For feminism! Right?! Who's with me! Woop woop! I bet we can get Geuss to come and talk. I'll bring a vegan sainsbury's cake!

    • I actually

      love you.

      • GGG

        Yeah this is pretty funny

    • fucking geuss

      you're not even allowed to say boo to him

    • Armchair Critic

      Occupy Patisserie Valerie.

  • Homertonian

    This is ridiculous, Cambridge should be a place of free speech, not selective invitation – so long as we get the chance to question him, where is the problem?

  • a feminist

    I think the CUSU women's officer should stand down from her 17.5k a year position becuase this is just an embarrassment. You are making women look pathetic.

    • YES!

      YES!

    • Vicious feminist

      Clearly another rape apologist.

    • Jeees

      You are literally grotesque.

    • Another Feminist

      The CUSU women's officer has to do something to justify her existence…

    • What?

      What has her salary got to do with it?

      And how does this make women look pathetic? "Oh, women, you're so pathetic, getting annoyed about people accused of rape who continuously escape trial."

  • On the fence..

    I have to be honest and admit I feel a bit uncomfortable with the overall content of the petition itself…am not sure CUSU have done their argument many favours as a result.

    "Dominique Strauss-Kahn has not been acquitted of any of the multiple accusations of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault that have been leveled against him"

    This does really leave things open to the “Innocent until proven guilty” argument.

    "Numerous charges of attempted rape and sexual assault should give the Union Society pause for thought when administering their speaker invitations."

    I think he was arrested this afternoon, has he been charged? Or do things work differently under French law?

    Etc…

    • Token French Person

      Actually he wasn't arrested. He was taken away for a meeting with lawyers and so on. He hasn't been imprisoned and the trial is not close to starting any time soon.

  • go away CUSU

    Whilst I am convinced that DSK deserves to be locked behind bars for his heinous crimes, this does not necessarily render him an inappropriate speaker at CUS. Consider that they have previously hosted Assange and Gaddafi! This petition is only playing in the attention-seeking CUS's hands; controversy is one of their "raisons d'être" after all!

    Also, it should be pointed out that CUSU have absolutely no jurisdiction over CUS, so they are wasting their time (consider the consequences when Durham's SU attempted to intimidate the US from hosting Griffin in 2010). Ideologically, CUSU and CUS are totally at odds: the former has a "no platform" policy, whilst the latter purposely confronts the uncomfortable.

    People who feel strongly that DSK should not have been invited could vote with their feet, or even cancel their CUS membership. Having never joined CUS myself, I do not consider it any of my business.

    • The Mouse

      'no jurisdiction'-that's why it's a petition, ASKING them to disinvite DSK. you're right, they have no more power to force them to disinvite them than they do to make them tie their shoelaces. but they can discuss it with them and offer recommendations and represent students that may be affected by this to the CUS.

      and it's not 'CUSU' organising it, it's an *autonoumous* campaign that is part of the organisational structure of the entire student union. CUSU has not formalised a position or even discussed this matter (the body which would make a decision on CUSUs position on this is CUSU Council-open to all students of the University).

      and CUSU does not, to the very best of my knowledge, have any 'No Platform' policy.

      • go away CUSU

        My point was that the petition is falling on deaf ears (see http://www.cus.org/about/faqs), and will only flatter the vanity of the attention-seeking DSK. Surely they would be better off organising a peaceful protest outside the building or attending the event and asking tough questions.

        I know NUS has a no-platform policy, so I presumed that CUSU also has it, although I cannot find it explicitly stated anywhere… maybe I am wrong? The point I was attempting to make is that there is a significant difference in approach to controversial speakers: at one end is CDE, who shout down anybody with whom they disagree; in the middle is CUSU; and the other end is CUS, who seek to confront the controversial with rational debate. Therefore, the problem with the petition is that it takes as an axiom that a henious person must needs be tucked under the carpet.

        • What?

          "My point was that…" That wasn't your original point. You've changed it since your first tirade.

          CUSU doesn't have a 'no platform' policy just because the NUS does. That would mean that nearly every SU and college SU in the country would also have a 'no platform' policy. They don't.

          Does the Union Society really "seek to confront the controversial with rational debate"? It'll be interesting to see, if DSK does come, how difficult the event actually is for him.

  • ian

    It makes me sad that there are people this stupid at Cambridge. He wasn't convicted of anything. Hence, he's not a rapist. Apparently, 240 people can't understand the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty', including someone who is apparently too cowardly to use their real name on a petition.

    • Jeees

      He escaped trial – there hasn't been a legal decision over whether he is a rapist. People don't throw around rape accusations trivially – bringing a rape case to court is arduous, emotionally traumatic, and long. In such a high profile case, and as we've seen, bringing a conviction results in worldwide negative media coverage. Would you do that for a laugh, or out of vindinctiveness?

      We should take these accusations seriously. Not to mention that Tristane Banon's case only didn't come to court because of the French statute of limitations.

      • ian

        He didn't 'escape' trial. Just go and do some research ffs:

        After completing a lengthy investigation, prosecutors filed a motion to drop all charges against Strauss-Kahn, stating that they were not convinced of his culpability beyond a reasonable doubt due to serious issues in the complainant's credibility and inconclusive physical evidence, and therefore could not ask a jury to believe in it. On June 30, 2011, the New York Times reported that the case was on the "verge of collapse" because of problems with the credibility of the alleged victim, who had, according to sources within the NYPD, repeatedly lied to the police since making her first statement. According to prosecutors, the accuser admitted that she lied to a grand jury about the events surrounding the alleged attack

    • Alberto

      240 people, including many who've written their names several times, someone calling themself Dominique Strauss-Kahn and someone calling themselves Jack the Ripper…

  • On the fence..

    “This is particularly true in Britain, which has the lowest rape conviction rate in Europe, at 6%.”

    This must be the first time CUSU have agreed with statistics provided by David Cameron and a front page story in the Daily Mail?
    http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/society/law

  • Truth

    Sorry just a boring comment but I feel like most people are missing a point.

    The most extreme supporters of DSK's venue should at least understand the point that inviting DSK for a talk before all the pending investigations in which he is implicated prove him innocent is basically saying that not knowing is good enough. It isn't, sorry.

    I say this although I was probably going to vote for him at the French presidential elections should he have run. I today oppose his venue to the Union and have signed the petition. It's not a matter of politics or gender. Just truth.

    • ian

      There's no such thing as 'proving innocence'.

  • Matty McBroide

    Give it up give it up, CUSU give it up nanananananananananana

  • Will get old fast
  • Wow

    The amount of rape apologism on this comment thread is truly frightening.

    The point about DSK having not been acquitted is that the 'innocent until proven guilty' principle becomes irrelevant – the point is that he has managed to evade trial despite the multiple allegations against him.

    Caring about the upholding the law is compatible with wanting the law to be implemented correctly. At present rape survivors frequently do not get the justice they deserve. 1 in 20 women will be raped whilst they are students, and as adults 25% of women are sexually assaulted. That's not to mention the smaller, but also significant, numbers of men who are raped or sexually assaulted. Despite these large statistics, most rapes go unreported, and of the rapes that are reported, only 6% end in conviction – a lower rate than for any other crime.

    This isn't just about the Women's Campaign, or about the Union. It's about the kind of university we want to be at. As a rape survivor, I don't want to be at a university where men against whom multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault have been made are invited to hold platforms at our most prestigious societies. The decision to host DSK feeds into a climate of silence and injustice around rape and sexual assault among the Cambridge student body. DSK gets to speak, but rape survivors and anti-rape campaigners do not. I would have hoped we were better than that.

    • Have to ask

      Clearly one in a million is one too many… but… there are too many statistics being bandied about here…

      1 in 20 women will be raped whilst they are students

      25% of women are sexually assaulted

      Source(s) of these figures are?

      • The Mouse

        I think the above comes from the NUS 'Hidden Marks' report.

        The other…there have been numerous studies but no specific study comes to mind.

    • Yeuch.

      "men against whom multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault have been made"

      Sorry: not good enough at all. This is not sufficient reason for anybody to be subject to a campaign of ostracism. Innocent until proven guilty is certainly not irrelevant.

    • Andrew

      So anyone who believes in basic principles of the Rule of Law and free speech is a rape apologist?

    • Not an Apologist

      Nobody's being a rape apologist, people are just objecting to 'no-smoke-without-fire' justice. The rape statistics you quote should be shocking to anyone, but the solution to the problem isn't to assume guilt when lacking in evidence. Innocent until proven guilty is a rule for a reason.

      I have every sympathy for you as a rape survivor, and am aware that I have no idea of how horrible it must have been, but I have a friend who is a rape-accusation survivor. He was eventually fully acquitted, but not before being taken to a prison cell and having his clothes taken for evidence, all the while being treated like utter scum by the police. He did nothing at all, evidence showed it, but based on the kind of argument you're suggesting, we should have already condemned him.

      I'm not saying DSK is innocent – I don't know, and neither do you. It seems likely that he's guilty, but it isn't our place to decide that.

      Further, I don't think moral failure (however extreme) should mean someone shouldn't be heard. If he has interesting things to say, he should be heard. That's what free speech is about. We have other ways of criticising his actions. It's not like this platform will be a treat for him, I imagine he'll be torn apart.

  • Johns

    Hopefully they will get off their periods in a week so this lame petition will die down

  • DC.

    This is a great idea, guys! Who needs "proof" to condemn a human for the rest of their lives for an alleged crime? That's a silly, outdated idea anyway! Much better to let the feminist movement decide who is a good person and who is not. Definitely fairer. We don't need to waste time or money on juries or justice that way! Just trust our Fearless Leaders! After all, everyone knows men are all evil, right? And obviously no woman would ever lie, that would be very unfeminine! No gender stereotypes in this movement, not at all!

    The platform on which you stand is a disgrace, and you are the enemies of justice, integrity, and liberty in our society. Each and every person with a name on this petition ought to be doing some serious soul-searching.

    • Andrew

      Very well said.

  • alex

    I don't get it. He was formally acquitted in a court of law.
    It sounds as though these people are biased

  • Oh yeah, free speech

    People who have committed crimes shouldn't be allowed to talk and be questioned, what is the union thinking?

    • will attenborough

      hang on – wasn't he acquitted of all charges?

      • Oh yeah, free speech

        Very possibly – all I mean is that even if he IS a criminal, that's not a reason to silence him.

        • Exaclty

          I'm pretty sure they had a convicted double murderer speaking at a debate in the last couple of years – Erwin James I believe his name was. Having been (a) convicted of (b) murder, he's more guilty than DSK in 2 respects, but there wasn't a problem with him speaking…

  • Ashamed

    This sort of idiocy just plays into the hands of poeple who see students as silly and unrealistic in thier views and not suitable to be listened to. If he has denied that he committed a crime and he has not been convicted, he is INNOCENT. Nobody should be marked for life based on a mere accusation. How would the CUSU women's officer like it if she was sacked and banned from Cambridge because I said she was a murderer but the case had been dropped because I was obviously unreliable.

  • Aunt Tam

    "The Cambridge Union Society's decision to invite Dominique Strauss-Kahn to speak this term displays, when interpreted most charitably, a callous desire to exploit gender crime allegations in the service of controversy. At worst, the invitation betrays an abhorrent disregard for the many survivors of sexual violence amongst the student body."

    So exploiting gender crime allegations in the service of controversy is worse than disregarding survivors of sexual violence? That seems a little twisted. One is negligence, one is willful immorality.

    Also, given the fact that the union invited him before these allegations were made, the 'most charitable' interpretation seems pretty uncharitable. Bordering, in fact, on the incredibly offensive.

    It must be nice for the women's campaign to carelessly throw around accusations like that, without stopping to consider the impact they might have on the union members involved. Who (I can't be bothered to check this) I believe are mostly women themselves. UNCLE TOMS.

  • Average student

    Who are CUSU anyway?

  • CUSU?

    wait, CUSU has a womens officers?

  • Disaffiliate

    CUSU are an absolute waste of time

  • Logically

    Its such a shame that the trots and feminazis at CUSU only believe in free speech when people sing from their hymn sheet. I despair that one of the great universities of the world has such a bunch of introvert, self centered disconnected people in its student union. One of the things I hope to remember as my time at Cambridge comes to a close is that the Union always pushed the boundaries and did the very best for debate and discussion giving students a chance to meet the widest range of speakers. I have no doubt that if CUSU had its way the union would be limited to Harriet Harman and representatives from the occupy movement each indulging in more self congratulation about how left wing and supposedly progressive they are. Why doesn't the womens officer spend more time dealing with these issues rather than trying to get her name in the paper? Go occupy my arse crack

    • You, my friend

      are a genius. You've just summed up my thoughts perfectly.

    • Public School Boy

      "Why doesn't the womens officer spend more time dealing with these issues rather than trying to get her name in the paper?"

      She got her name in TCS this week. They even spelled it correctly. Big things happening!

      • you what?

        wait, people read TCS?

  • confused

    women have rights?

  • Love TAB! Love TCS?

    Have you seen the message one angry TCS reader on their facebook group with a link about their coverage of the story?
    http://www.facebook.com/TheCambridgeStudent

  • Conspiracy

    Check out the Varsity editorial today…
    http://archive.varsity.co.uk/756.pdf

    "This week, media attention homed in on two stories first covered by Varsity this week…"

    Is it me? or has all of a sudden – http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/4456 now got a new time stamp of 11pm on 21st feb. (Yet no comments until 4.15pm 22 Feb)

    If I recall correctly didn't The Tab beat Varsity to it?