The student community at LMH has described itself as “completely divided” this week, as controversy continues surrounding a series of private emails between JCR President George Barnes and members of the “Honey Badgers” drinking society.
The full exchange has come to light after one undergraduate photocopied the conversation and distributed it amongst undergraduate pigeon holes.
Barnes introduced the email by inviting advice for freshers to invite on a crew date. His suggestion is that the recipients should “get to know the Freshers [girls] a little better in the coming week or so.”
Two replies have also sparked controversy, with undergraduate William Hoole suggesting that one student should be invited “alone” with “no witnesses,” whilst Barnes himself is seen dismissing a fresher as “properly dull.”
One LMH undergraduate said the exchange made them feel “uncomfortable” as in their opinion it “objectified the girls” mentioned.
Another student was more concerned, telling Cherwell that they felt the exchange was “clearly sexist, and offensive to all the people who were its subject.” They suggested that the JCR President’s position had been called into question, commenting, “I think it best that he resign because as the JCR President of a college with such a history of equal opportunity as LMH, his behaviour was unacceptable.”
Barnes commented, “I am deeply saddened that recent events may have offended some people or made them think ill of the college, especially as LMH has such an illustrious tradition of furthering women’s rights and education.” He went on to say that he placed his trust in the Dean’s investigation of the affair, adding, “I am confident that he will review the situation, and if he thinks it necessary, take appropriate action.”
Hoole also expressed regret, commenting that he was “upset that this whole affair may have damaged the reputation of my college and my home.” He explained that his comment was “a private joke amongst friends, and should not be read or interpreted at face value,” although he acknowledged that it appeared distasteful.
One original recipient of the emails described the reaction to the exchange as “absolutely ludicrous,” commenting that the group were merely “trying to organise a crewdate with the fresher girls, which is a common practice around Oxford.” He blamed the controversy on “a small minority of people who have personal agendas against certain members of our group” and called the Dean’s reaction “completely ridiculous,” and suggested that the college authorities were considering removing Barnes and others involved from their JCR positions.
Another of those involved similarly defended the email as just an attempt to decide “which freshers were sociable and fun.” He similarly criticised the “very cliquey” LMH student body, claiming, “these stories are largely being perpetuated by an insular group of bitter students with a personal vendetta against the Exec.”
This position was supported by Benjamin LLewelyn, who became aware of the contents of the exchange only this week, commenting, “I don’t believe the emails sent were intended in the slightest to be misogynistic.”
Another uninvolved student commented, “Fresher girls, and boys, will always be judged and assessed and will always become prey for the older years, this is not a problem that is specific to LMH nor is it particularly worse here.”
Michael Monoyios, Dean of LMH, told Cherwell that he will be “investigating the matter thoroughly and fairly,” although he did not wish to make any further comment until any necessary disciplinary decisions had been made.