Common Room

Oxford’s African and Caribbean Society releases statement condemning Magdalen President

Image: Magdalen’s cloisters, with a view of the tower.

The University’s Oxford African and Caribbean Society has issued a statement condemning the President of Magdalen College, joining the Oxford University LGBTQ Society in doing so. The President of Magdalen, Dinah Rose QC, has been criticised from within and outside the university for her role in representing the Caymanian government as it resists the inclusion of same-sex marriage in the interpretation of the Cayman Islands’ constitution. The case is to be appealed in the Privy Council in the UK, where Rose is expected to argue again on behalf of the Caymanian government against same-sex marriage. 

The statement describes her role in the case as “hindering her ability to uphold the welfare of Magdalen College’s LGBTQ+ and Caribbean students”, and suggests that “the inherently racial dynamics of this situation have been side-lined from the conversation.”

Rose was appointed President of Magdalen College in February 2020, by which time she had already represented the Caymanian government in their Court of Appeal in November 2019. In an email sent to members of Magdalen College, Rose stated that she had disclosed her involvement in the case to the College during the interview process for the role. She also suggested that public outcry was based on “a fundamental misunderstanding of the professional role and duties of a barrister” and on “the error of identifying a barrister’s opinions with those of their client.”

In response to this, the Oxford University LGBTQ Society’s statement, which ACS references, argues that “The question of her involvement in the 2019 Court of Appeal case is fundamentally different to the question at hand, which is not whether she as a barrister should take such cases, but whether she can properly fulfil her duties as President when continuing to do so.”

The Oxford African and Caribbean Society’s statement reads:

The LGBTQ+ Officer, Nadia Awad, told The Flete: “This legal case may exacerbate pre-existing homophobia within the Caribbean, with these structures and sentiments historically originating in British colonial laws. Dinah cannot claim to support the welfare of LGBTQ+ and BAME students in Magdalen, or support Oxford’s recent commitment to tackle endemic racism in this institution, if she aids a government wanting to criminalise same-sex marriage in the predominantly non-white Cayman Islands.”

The President of Oxford African and Caribbean Society, Sean Sinana, reiterated his Officer’s comments, saying: “It’s worrying that a President of a college can advocate for such backwards law. Caribbean culture sadly has a long way to go when it comes to accepting those of the LGBTQ+ community so it’s terribly disappointing that a QC with praised expertise Civil Liberties law would not only betray the trust of their own LGBTQ+ students but directly uphold such dangerous and backwards thinking which is prevalent in many Caribbean islands today.”

Oxford African and Caribbean Society is just the latest university group to issue a public statement on the matter. Magdalen’s JCR Committee issued a statement earlier today, stating that they hoped to represent the views of their students, but “particularly those from LGBTQ+ students.” A General Meeting of Magdalen’s JCR will be held on Sunday, at which the JCR as a whole will discuss the issue.  

Dinah Rose QC and a representative of Oxford African and Caribbean Society have been contacted for comment.

Edited 19:47, 29/01/21, to include statements from ACS representatives.

Image: interbeat, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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