27/02/2012 12:07 GMT | Updated 27/02/2012 12:10 GMT

Dominique Strauss Kahn's Cambridge University Visit Causes Student Clash

Cambridge University student officials came to blows over the controversial invitation extended to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief accused of sexual assault.

Hundreds of students at Cambridge University have signed a petition protesting against the decision to invite Strauss-Kahn to speak at their union but the event is still set to go ahead. Strauss-Kahn is to appear at the debating society, which has played host to Ronald Reagan and the Dalai Lama, next month to address students on topics such as the global economy and Eurozone crisis.

Speaking on BBC Newshour, Ruth Graham, women's officer for Cambridge's Students Union (CUSU), and Katie Lam, president of private members club the Cambridge Union Society (CUS), remained at loggerhead's over the issue.

The petition has gathered 533 signatures to date and argues the CUS' decision shows a callous desire to exploit gender crime allegations in the service of controversy.

According to Graham, the CUSU has been approached by a "large number of women deeply unhappy about the invitation".

"Choosing to give Strauss-Kahn the right to speak here disregards his admission of sexual aggression as well as the accusations of attempted rape and the civil case that is still facing him in the US," she said. "Not to mention the pimping allegations that came out last week."

"We feel very strongly having this man to speak and choosing to ignore the voices of women who report sexual assault feeds into a culture where low reporting of cases is perpetuated by fear and a reality that many women are not believed when they come forward."

Lam hit back at the jibes, saying whether or he is an "unsavoury character" has nothing to do with the remit of the society.

"It is not part of the purpose of what we do. We do not make judgements on the speakers we have here. It is a neutral forum and we invite speakers regardless of background or history."

But the president of CUS was forced to defend the decision to invite one of the society's previous guests - Colonel Gaddafi, saying that the invitation did not mean the club endorsed the speaker.

Graham added: "Gaddafi does not strike me as an example that undermines Strauss-Kahn demand byt rather that the union has made mistakes with regards to their social responsibility in the past and I worry about this issue of endorsement."