Students at Jesus College have been mourning the “death of fun” at their college this week.
Dissatisfied JCR members have been wearing black armbands to protest against the “academic clampdown” which they believe has been imposed by College authorities.
A motion passed in last week’s JCR meeting accused Dr Alexandra Lumbers, Jesus’s Senior Tutor, of using “scare tactics” to raise academic standards.
The motion suggested “that all members wear black armbands” in remembrance of fun, and was passed with one abstention and no votes against it.
An email from JCR President Alex Mohan explained that while the students’ actions were a “light hearted and tongue-in-cheek mourning of fun,” they were also “a serious protest against the changing attitude of the senior members of staff in the college towards what is expected of students.”
He added, “It is felt that the tone of this year’s Freshers’ Week and the increased use of special and penal collections over the past year are detrimental to this healthy balance, pushing the emphasis too far towards work at the expense of welfare and enjoyment of the university experience.”
A student at the college said, “It is a sad day for Jesus when its students aren’t experiencing Oxford to the full.
“Everyone realises that work is important, but we don’t want these to be the three most boring years of our lives. Everyone is in the library the whole time: it’s all part of their ‘drive for five’.”
The ‘drive for five’ is a term which has been coined by Jesus students to refer to the College’s perceived academic push to gain a spot in the top 5 in the Norrington Table.
When asked about the protests, Dr Lumbers, the Senior Tutor, claimed that there had been no change in College policy and that no decisions had yet been made.
The dispute reportedly began when ‘Babies’ Weekend,’ a Jesus tradition whereby sixth-formers with offers of places at the college visit Jesus for a ‘weekend of fun’, was cancelled by senior management. The annual event was reinstated in a reduced form after a petition was organised by students.
The college’s changes have created what another Jesus student described as a “climate of fear”.The ‘Turl Street Dash’ has also been banned by College authorities, and students are facing tougher penalties on special and penal collections.
One JCR official said that the number of novice rowing teams has fallen from 7 to 3 in a year, highlighting the dramatic fall in extra-curricular participation.
Ben Ruddle, a second year at the college, wore the armband while the television drama ‘Lewis’ was being filmed at the college, to add weight to the protest.
The Senior Tutor said, “There are ongoing discussions with students, who are now represented on the college governing body.” She also expressed surprise about being singled out in the JCR motion, pointing out that academic policies were set collectively by the senior staff at the college.
She added that there was an ongoing strategic review concerned with all aspects of College, including “ensuring that the College’s disciplinary measures – both academic and non-academic – are fair and transparent, in line with University guidelines.”