Student dresses as Stephen Hawking at LMH bop

The able-bodied student chose the costume for the 'Dress as your degree' theme

An LMH student has been criticised for wearing a Stephen Hawking costume to a college bop.

The able bodied student attended the bop, which was themed ‘Dress as your degree’ on Saturday.

The student was referred to the Dean after angry responses from many in college.

He sat on an office chair with wheels to mimic the wheelchair that Hawking uses. The scientist was paralysed from a slow progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

A spokesperson for LMH said: “Our Dean will be speaking to the student to express the college’s disappointment and to ask him to reflect on why his behaviour would be seen by many as offensive.”

The President of the JCR, Lana Purcell, said: “This behaviour breaches our clearly expressed expectations for bop costumes. We are angry and disappointed that this has happened and have referred the person to the Dean.”

Oxford SU Students Disability Community (OSDC) also criticised the student for their costume.

Their Chair, Miranda Reilly, and College Disability Rep Officer, Josie Paton, who is an undergraduate at LMH, said: “While it is not impossible to dress respectfully as Stephen Hawking, as a world-renowned physicist, this seems to have not been the case or intention.

“Mobility aids are an important tool in many disabled people’s daily lives, and so it is disrespectful for them to be parodied in this way.

“Using disability as a punchline is unacceptable and this proves we need wider awareness of disability issues at this university.”

“However, while many people will express shock at this incident; we would incline you to consider the more subtle forms of disability as a costume, and question even where this is used respectfully.

“The majority of the very few disabled roles in film, stage and television go to non-disabled actors with no criticism outside of the disabled community.

“Ableism comes in many forms far more subtle than this incident at the bop.”

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A spokesperson for Oxford SU said: “Oxford SU has passed policy on Bop and Entz themes which believes that bops should be inclusive.

“If the intention was to offend then this contradicts that belief and the spirit of the policy.”

A first year said: “From talking to people, it has been taken very much in the spirit with which it was intended.

“While maybe not the best choice, for a guy in normal clothes sitting in an office chair, it seems to have been blown a bit out of proportion.

This is not the first time that an LMH student has attracted criticism for a bop costume. In Michaelmas 2017 another student was criticised for trivialising the “lived experience of survivors” of sexual assault after attending a bop dressed as film producer Harvey Weinstein.

The student appeared as Weinstein – who has been the subject of multiple allegations of sexual assault and rape – for LMH’s “horror movie classics” themed party.

The student was asked to leave by other students, before later being asked to meet with the college dean to “reflect on his behavior.”

4 COMMENTS

  1. My brother was diagnosed with this terrible and cruel condition last may ,if this student or loved one was in the same place as him and my family he wouldn’t of been so insulting to the people with this ,my brother as only 6 month to 3 years to live please think before you mock .

  2. Why are people assuming the student was mocking the disability? By all means if that was the way in which it was carried out then it’s awful, but if it was a genuine tribute to a person who is so iconic in physics then I don’t see why it is so condemned. I’m not sure why an office chair is necessarily mocking a wheelchair; doesn’t it just embody the DIY nature of bop costumes and fancy dress? Imitating ≠ mocking.

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