OUSU Council passed a motion on Wednesday declaring that the regulations for subfusc should be made gender neutral.
Proposed by LGBTQ Executive Officer, Jess Pumphrey, the move highlights the issue that current transgender or gender confused students face when it comes to subfusc regulations. It is currently stated in University regulations that students must dress in a way “appropriate to their sex.”
Pumphrey told Cherwell, “It’s a small change that will make a number of students’ exam experience significantly less stressful by eliminating the need for trans students to cross-dress to avoid being confronted by invigilators or disciplined during their exam.”
She added, “It shouldn’t affect anyone else. I am hopeful that the university will adopt the proposal, especially since it has now been supported by OUSU.’
The motion passed without opposition at this week’s OUSU Council Meeting and will now be taken to the University for consideration.
Gail Bartlett, transgender rep for the Oxford LGBTQ Society called the proposals “much more inclusive” and commented, “Gender-specific policies by design are often an issue for trangender people, firstly because they entirely exclude people who do not identify as any gender (or more than one), and secondly because their enforcement relies upon a judgement call by an authority on the subject’s gender, presumably based upon their appearance. This is highly worrying for transgender students, who do not need the additional stress of whether they will be ‘challenged’ on their gender during exams.”
Former LGBTQ Executive Officer Katie Colliver, of University College, also supports the move, stating that discussions have been going on for some time about this topic. She told Cherwell, “Subfusc rules were being discussed by the LGBTQ Campaign whilst I was LGBTQ Officer last Michaelmas and I have heard first-hand from students who have experienced difficulties with the current policy. I am glad that Jess has been pursuing the matter and fully support the proposed changes.”
Student opinion seems divided. Benson Egwuonwu, JCR President at St Catz, agrees, commenting, “I think it’s a really positive step forwards in helping transgender people in the student community – they should be allowed to wear what they want.”
However some students feel the motion has ‘taken political correctness too far.’
One third year Law student commented, “This seems a bit unnecessary – it only applies to a tiny percentage of the student population and it seems unlikely that the a trans student would really be confronted by the Proctors about what they are wearing. This seems to be a further example of the politically correct society we now live in.”
Andrew Pickett, a 2nd year from St Catz added, “Although I wholeheartedly agree with the principle of the motion, I am not certain how this will be regarded by the University, when more pressing matters such as tuition fees require revision by the Governing Body. Surely this could be something of a distraction from more important issues.”
The proposal will be put to the University authorities and a decision will be made over the coming months.