St Anne’s JCR debated a motion to abolish High Table on Sunday night, ultimately voting it down by a count of twenty-nine to forty-six, with ten abstentions.
The motion, proposed by second-year History and Politics student Joe Collin, read, “The JCR notes that: St Anne’s is renowned for being a modern and informal college, which has always championed equality. The JCR believes that: High Table is an outdated tradition that is a physical and visual expression of inequality.”
Collin told Cherwell the reasons for his motion, arguing that High Table “cannot be reconciled with our college’s values, a college founded on the basis of equality, in giving women an education.”
He continued, “pretentious and outdated traditions like High Table damage the external image of Oxford and the college. As Access and Equal Opportunities rep at St Anne’s, I know that ridiculous traditions like this do have some impact in discouraging some students from applying.”
Collin also attacked the concept of a High Table: “If you believe tutors should sit there because of academic achievement, should graduates sit physically above undergraduates? If you believe they should sit there due to their service to the college, why don’t scouts, or porters sit there?”
Second-year PPEist Ben Rosenbaum, who seconded the motion, explained how it came about. “A few days ago, Joe and I were having an argument about High Table with a few of our friends and we were surprised by how many extreme reactions it got on both sides (although we were in the clear minority). We heard that Wadham had abolished High Table and thought it was worth a go here, although it was pretty speculative attempt – we both thought it was very unlikely to pass.”
Collin intends to propose this motion again a year from now; Rosenbaum added that they would be able to pass the motion if St Anne’s had “a liberal intake of freshers.”
During the debate, second-year Sam Rodrigues argued that High Table is a sign of respect in a meritocratic system; Rosenbaum replied, “if we lowered [tutors] a metre, I would not lose respect.” Will Dufton, a fresher, asked, “Do you see them with anger when you see them up there?” concluding that High Table does not affect daily life enough to justify the cost of change. Another student commented, “Many traditions are actually simply very nice.”
St Anne’s is not the first college to try to abolish High Table this year. In Michaelmas, Somerville’s JCR debated and rejected a similar motion.