Washington D.C. Dinner - report

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Univ Old Members and their guests joined us for a Drinks Reception and Dinner on Saturday 9th April at the University Club in Washington, as part of the 2016 Alumni Weekend in North America. The Master gave an update on College news and Dr Tim Evans (1984, Plant Sciences), Senior Director at the World Bank Group, was guest speaker.


Univ Old Member John Hicklin (1972, History), has kindly provided this report:


'Some 75 Univ alumni and friends attended a dinner at the University Club in Washington DC on April 9. The dinner -- and a lunchtime gathering the following day -- coincided with the biennial Oxford University North American reunion, which this year was held outside New York for the first time. Univ alumni, drawn from as far afield as California, Canada and Switzerland, enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the dinner as well as various references in speeches to public policy issues: the bread and butter of Washington life, especially in an election year.


The Master in his remarks emphasized the longstanding links between Univ and America and welcomed a new initiative. The continuing ties are evident not only in the generations of graduates from the US, but also in the invaluable support provided by the American Friends of Univ. In the new venture, Univ and the Rothermere American Institute, represented at the dinner by its Director Jay Sexton, collaborate formally to fund fellowships for Univ postgraduates studying US history and politics. The Institute, which houses the largest collection of books on the US outside America, provides the rare – and, some would say, much needed-- opportunity for an outside academic perspective on developments in the US.


The Master’s report on the strong state of the college contained some surprises and updates on controversies. One surprise was the launch of a bond issue to finance expansion. Given the challenges in funding higher education on both sides of the Atlantic, Univ has seized the opportunity to pioneer an approach that takes advantage of low interest rates and new regulations. Another topical issue, resonating every day in the US and elsewhere, is the debate on how far to go in recognizing and removing symbols of oppression (statues, flags, or names). Univ has learned that, whatever the outcome in individual cases, no institution can engage in purely internal debate on the merits: the broader implications and context are important.


Embracing a global rather than local perspective is nowhere more important than in the field of public health, which was the theme of the keynote speech. Dr Tim Evans (1984), Senior Director for the Health, Nutrition and Population global practice at the World Bank, gave an impassioned plea for the US to be involved in the challenges of global public health. Interventions should be seen in a broader context than providing support when needed, critical as that can be. Security is also an important motivation, since infections and disease know no boundaries. A vital consideration is the systemic impact of policies across national borders, since policies that affect the supply of professionals or the price of medicines in one country can have a major effect on other countries’ health care systems. If Tim Evans’ speech has generated greater interest in understanding the systemic impact of domestic policies, this Univ dinner will have been worthwhile as well as enjoyable!


John Hicklin (1972)