Identity crisis

The desire to identify oneself with something at university is a fairly self-evident step that people take. however, for this identity to be dictated by the college one chooses or ends up in, is to base one’s Oxford life around convenience and circumstance. it is not a rational choice, but one that goes beyond immediate practicalities and stems from a desire for belonging and happiness. The idea that colleges have a certain type is, broadly speaking, a fallacy. Oxford is no longer the kind of place where it is possible to know what one is to expect – the Brideshead image of life in Oxford has been well and truly demolished as a reality of Oxford life. Today the university is broader, more diverse and varied then at any time in its history, yet still we like to think of ourselves as Jesubites or hughsies, and hold this ideological attachment foremost in our minds, often ahead of one to the university. Oxbridge is peculiar in this aspect because, although ivy League universities do have colleges, in the case of Yale, for example, they are merely glorified boarding houses. people are primarily Yaleys, whereas we are more likely to think of ourselves as stanners rather than Oxonians. Our distinctness from other english universities (durham the possible exception) is even greater. clearly we get this identity from an empathy with the place we live and work, in the same way that one might have about a town or even a nation, yet as we uphold a collegiate spirit in the light of perceived attacks, who or what are we really defending? Surely the propensity of hacks or thesps or jocks to congregate is saner and more sensible then our earnest desire for college affi liation: whatever their faults, these groups have consciously come together because they have something in common to work for. The shared experience of a studio rehearsal room or union debating chamber must be greater than post-hangover cups of coffee and curious glances at opposite ends of the Jcr. Yet it is for the latter which we feel the greater attachment. and it is this distorted viewpoint that has given rise to the hilda’s controversy. without wanting to sound patronising, it is fairly safe to say that Oxford students are an intelligent and aware bunch of individuals. so why is it that if consciously and explicitly ironic article is published, there are people who think we are expressing a serious point? stereotypes such as those about “hildabeasts” are clear objects of ridicule, and anyone who believes them to be true has a fairly distorted perspective on such issues in the first place. So, while the last week has shown that Cherwell’s ability to provoke remains firmly intact, perhaps more comforting is the oldest and perhaps singularly unscarred of Oxford traditions – collegiate loyalty and pride. it is inevitable and understandable, therefore, that we raised objection from those who felt a common identity under attack. But as that identity we satirise rests firmly in the domain of stereotypes, and hilda’s is no different from any other college in comprising of randomly bunched together individuals, our article must be taken for the explicitly intended irony that it was.ARCHIVE: 6th week MT 2005