Merton College JCR has voted to ban The Sun from its common room in protest against Page 3.
The motion, which passed at the JCR meeting last Sunday, was proposed by Merton’s Equal Opportunities Officer Hamish Forbes and seconded by OUSU’s Rent and Accommodation Officer Sophie Terrett.
27 members voted in favour of the motion, with 13 opposing it. There were only two recorded abstentions in what the JCR Vice-President Liz Milne described as a “high turnout”.
Forbes said the idea was to send a message to the Sun, as well as to show solidarity with the national ‘No More Page 3’ movement. He explained, “It’s important that we passed this motion in order to demonstrate to the Sun’s editors that we as a leading educational institution are opposed to Page Three in its current form”.
He went on to stress that the initiative gained strength from the number of members. “Every added organisation or institution to the list of those supporting the campaign is important”, he said.
The decision was not an easy one for all members of the JCR to take. PPE student Jonas Müller voiced opposition, warning that banning one newspaper would “lead to a slippery slope”. He added that “banning things for moral reasons is concerning,” and that if the nudity was the source of people’s worries the motion was pointless, as “12 year olds can watch porn online anyway”.
LGBTQ Rep Alex Beecham made the argument that the motion should be a protest about the objectification of women and not about nudity. Other speakers at the meeting concurred. Forbes agreed too and an amendment was made in order to clarify this point.
Information and Returning Officer Joe Hackett was worried about increasing the effect of the ‘Oxford Bubble’, noting that Merton JCR does not subscribe to the Daily Mail, and thus by banning The Sun would have no access to Britain’s first and second most popular newspaper. Finalist Chris McCabe worried that the lack of the Sun would lead to a lack of working class representation in the JCR’s media subscriptions.
The ‘No More Page 3’ campaign has gathered pace in recent weeks, gaining the backing of several well-known institutions and individuals. Edinburgh, Durham, UCL, Manchester and Oxford Brookes are just some of the 27 universities to have stopped stocking the paper. On top of this the campaign has received backing from politicians, unions, charities and celebrities. 151 MPs signed a letter asking for the Sun to end the feature, and Russell Brand published a photo of him wearing a No More Page 3 T-shirt.
“I’m surprised it took so long to happen,” said one first-year of the motion. “And even more surprised that some people voted against it. “Although I can understand maybe why they thought it was a bit unclear”.
One JCR member maintained, “A lot of people seemed unsure about how effective the whole thing was. I mean I get the idea that we’ll achieve more as part of a wider movement, but how much pressure will The Sun really be feeling as a result?”
Another Mertonian was concerned about how lightly some of the undergraduates were taking the new rulings. They explained that some older students, having discovered that it is impossible to appeal a motion within two years of its passing, were “talking about simply buying the Daily Sport instead”. This would “totally defeat the purpose of the motion”, they claimed.
Merton joins a host of other colleges in banning the paper. Brasenose, St Hugh’s, New, University and Teddy Hall have all outlawed the tabloid in recent times. New College student Verity Bell commended Merton’s decision commenting, “I’m glad that Oxford undergraduates are tackling the everyday objectification of women in the tabloid press directly.”
One Brasenose student said, “Taking these sorts of decisions has a positive direct effect; but the largest impact comes from the publicity generated in doing so. When Merton become another addition to the colleges that have taken a stand against The Sun, the message will gain further traction and hopefully be considered at a higher level.”
The No More Page 3 campaign acknowledged Merton’s efforts by retweeting Hamish Forbes declaration of success.