A number of invitations were sent out this week inviting a select group of students at the college on a pub crawl, to take place on Friday evening.
Women taking part in the event were instructed to ‘pass the following obstacles’, including a set drink to consume at a number of different pubs, with ‘huntsmen in pursuit’ in order to ‘evade mauling’, according to the invite.
The participants were set to head ‘towards Wahoo foxhole’ before the foxes would be subject to ‘eventual capture by the huntsmen.’ ‘Ladies’ attending the event were instructed to dress up as ‘foxes’ while men were told to come in ‘hunting attire’.
The JCR motion, which was passed in a meeting this evening by a significant show of hands, mandated the JCR to issue ‘a formal statement of dissociation from, and condemnation of, the Black Cygnets.’
Carenza Harvey, the fresher who proposed the motion at the JCR meeting, commented, “I decided to propose this motion because I and many others at St Hugh’s felt that language used in the invitations sent out by the Black Cygnets and indeed the very premise of the ‘Fox Hunt’ is offensive and inherently sexist. Suggesting that female attendees should have to avoid ‘mauling’ and that the end of the night would lead to their ‘eventual capture’ is distressing and degrading for everyone involved – both for those who were invited and for those who were made to feel inadequate having not been invited.
“I am certain that the vast majority of students at St Hugh’s College are staunchly opposed to this event; many of them over many years have already made clear their absolute disgust at the ‘Fox Hunt’. We know that organisations like the Black Cygnets are not exclusive to St Hugh’s but, by taking a stand, we hope to convey the message that this college will absolutely not accept this kind of misogyny.”
She added, “While a topic like this inevitably sparks debate on many levels, other JCR members have all been incredibly supportive and positive about the action that myself and others have taken thus far. I have been hugely enthused by the amount of encouragement that has been directed towards myself and the motion in general. I feel it is true to say that sexism and prejudice is very much in the minority here.
“I definitely think that similar societies have been allowed to exist and get away with their actions for too long. It is appalling that this sort of behaviour can still take place in a university which is supposed to be a centre of learning and progression – it is this sort of conduct which gives the university a bad name and perpetuates the negative stereotypes already surrounding Oxford.”
However, not everyone associated with the college has agreed with the motion. The author of the ‘St Hugh’s Freshers’ twitter feed tweeted earlier today, “Aside from the content of the Emergency Meeting Agenda, it is ridiculous that it is littered with basic grammatical and syntactic mistakes.” Later this afternoon, the twitter feed poster said, “Does anyone fancy a light pub crawl before Wahoo this Friday?”
In a statement, the Principal of St Hugh’s College, the Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC, said, “This College was founded to secure equality for women, and has a strong and continuing tradition of furthering the cause of women’s rights and education. We are utterly appalled that any member of our community would consider belonging to, or participating in, this repugnant, sexist and secretive group. This group is already banned from our College and is treated with contempt by the overwhelming majority of St Hugh’s students. Any student involved in the distribution of material of this kind, or participation in any of this group’s activities, will be subject to the College’s disciplinary procedures.”
Tim Ellis, a third year at St Hugh’s, told Cherwell, “The black cygnets are an embarrassment to St Hugh’s, and I think they’re frankly a bit pathetic, if I’m to be honest. It is absolutely right for the JCR to condemn this.”
Another St Hugh’s student, Thea Bradbury, said, “I imagine that the vast majority of the JCR will be in support of the motion; very few people I’ve spoken to see the Black Cygnets as anything other than disgusting and unacceptable. While there are a few people saying that it’s relatively harmless fun, they’re very much in the minority. The reaction seems to be much the same as last year: people are upset that the society exists, but don’t really know what to do about it as it has already been banned by college for the past five years and has very little support among the student body. Many people are aware who the members of the society are, but the only formal sanction that we can take is to disassociate ourselves from them; there’s no way to actually force them to disband…I feel that a united movement of JCRs opposing them would be a step in the right direction.”
Another St Hugh’s student, Charlie Hempstead, told Cherwell, “The emergency meeting allowed for constructive debate on both sides without derogatory name-calling or a witch-hunt breaking out, despite this being such an emotive issue. I personally am proud to be part of a college which has chosen to take a stand against an objectionable and sexist event.”