Oxford Students for Life 2013-2014: Reflections on the Past Year
I remember preparing for our first term as an official student society in the weeks before Michaelmas 2013; from the creation of our Facebook page and blog, to frantic email exchanges about guest speakers, to plans for what would be the first of many, many 8 am breakfast meetings with the committee, to looking forward, apprehensively and excitedly, to our first Freshers’ Fair. I did not, and could not have imagined then, what an incredible year it would be. From a mailing list of about fifty people, we have grown to a list of over three hundred. Our blog, which began with a small handful of followers, now has hits in the thousands. We have been fortunate to have some really excellent speakers address us, from Lord David Alton to Abby Johnson and Shawn Carney. We’ve had two big debates, which drew large crowds and attention from groups around Oxford and around the country. We’ve been featured in numerous media outlets, including the Huffington Post, the Cherwell, Life Site News, the Catholic Herald, and were lucky enough to win the Alliance of Pro Life Students’ award for ‘Best Student Society of the Year’. Among these highlights, we’ve had many memorable moments – who could forget when Kate Smurthwaite asked us all, at our debate on the 1967 Abortion Act, to leave and donate our kidneys? Or perhaps when, with 36 hours’ notice, we gathered a group together to fight (and defeat) a motion to censor us in the Students’ Union? It has been a tremendously eventful year, and I could not have asked for a better start to what I am sure will be many years of OSFL success.
Our hope in the coming year is to develop initiatives in practical help and support for student parents, particularly expectant mothers. We’re also hoping to bring in some even bigger speakers, so keep an eye out for our next termcard! Our aim has been, and continues to be, to spread the pro-life message to those who have not heard it, to develop a culture of life in the university, and to encourage and unite other pro-life students. The student pro-life movement is not only here to stay; it is growing, and our hope is to remain at the forefront of that growth. We cannot do this alone. We need the continued and increased support of our community, and I hope that everyone reading this will consider the ways in which you might support OSFL’s efforts in the future. We have come a long way, and there is a long way still to go.
Many people have contributed to Oxford Students for Life’s success this year, and I would like to thank them here. Firstly, I’d like to Dr. Michael Ward, our senior member, who has been a constant source of support and encouragement over the past year. We’re also very grateful to Ed Smith, Eve Farren, and the entire team at the Alliance of Pro-Life Students; it’s exciting to watch the student pro-life movement develop and strengthen across the UK, and APS is the engine behind that growth. I’d like to thank Amy Owens and Amy Pether, who were both on the committee last year, and played a big part in getting OSFL off the ground. I also want to thank all of the people who have helped at our events throughout the year: Nathan, our debate chair; Toby, Sam, and Mike; Martin, our ally in room-booking; and everyone who’s put up a poster, shared an event, or brought a friend along to one of our meetings – thank you.
Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank my outstanding committee members. I know I’m not the first enthusiastic student society president to be supremely confident that the people she works with really are the best people on Earth, nor will I be the last. That said, Oxford Students for Life would not be where it is today without Dan Hitchens, Jo Jackson, and Alisha Gabriel. I could not have asked for three more hardworking, talented, dedicated, and impressive people to spend this year with. Both I, and this society, owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Being OSFL president has been an honor, a privilege, and a total joy, and it’s because of Dan, Jo, and Alisha. All glory, laud, and honor to them.
Leaving is always bittersweet, but I cannot be sad to go while I am so excited for Oxford Students for Life’s next year. I know the incoming committee will do a fantastic job and make us all proud. I can’t think of a better group of people to take this society “further up and further in”.
Molly Gurdon, OSFL outgoing president