Jesus College JCR has issued a letter of apology to Lincoln College after homophobic chants were sung by fans at this year’s rugby Plate final. Both Jesus and Lincoln College authorities have been criticised for attempting to suppress dialogue on the issue, after emails were circulated asking students not to provide comments to the student media.
Concerns about offensive chanting were first raised in an email sent last week to the Jesus JCR and MCR presidents which referred to inappropriate chants “in relation to the name of Lincoln College” at the 2 May match.
The chant deemed “homophobic” is understood to be a traditional slogan, typically directed at “Jesus boys” by female fans. The off ending line reads, “Jesus boys, they play one, they all take it up the bum […]”, sung to the tune of children’s song ‘This Old Man’.
At the rugby Plate final, “Jesus boys” was substituted for “Lincoln boys”, and reportedly sung by male and female Jesus supporters. Jesus LGBTQ Rep Jessica Parker Humphreys told Cherwell, “The line from the song is off ensive and inappropriate. However, it was written at a time when casual homophobia was more easily accepted than it is now.” Parker Humphreys continued, “I am happy to say that Jesus girls have been discussing changing the line and that it is actually an opportunity to acknowledge how easy it is to make mistakes. Whilst condemning what happened is important, it is also important to see that things are changing as a result.”
According to Jesus JCR President Leo Gebbie, the chants have nevertheless caused “serious upset to several members of the Lincoln College Common Rooms”.
Students have also expressed concern at apparent attempts by college authorities to prevent student journalists from investigating the issue.
On Tuesday morning, Lincoln’s Senior Dean circulated an email which stated, “A student newspaper has become interested in a matter that is of considerable importance to the College and its student members. While there is certainly no cause for alarm may I politely ask that any Lincoln student approached by the press should not offer a statement but instead refer the matter to myself or the Rector.” A similar email sent to Jesus students requested that students “refer all press enquiries” to the Principal.
An anonymous Lincoln student told Cherwell that, “The idea that students are instructed not to share any views they have or experiences that concern them with a free press, without first going through college authorities, is frankly abominable.”
Another anonymous Lincoln student remarked, “I suppose they want to keep a lid on any exaggerated reports or sensationalized comments as allegations of homophobia are obviously very serious.”
Lincoln JCR President Rachel Jeal stated that “both colleges are taking this matter very seriously”, but referred Cherwell’s enquiry to college authorities.
Jesus JCR’s apology letter, issued on Tuesday, was written by Gebbie and signed by various JCR representatives. It stated, “We would like to apologise unreservedly on behalf of the Jesus supporters for any inappropriate chants in relation to the name of Lincoln College that may have been expressed at this match, and for any offence this may have caused to players or supporters. At Jesus, we pride ourselves on being an exceptionally welcoming and open community, embracing and supporting both our members and those of the wider university community regardless of nationality, ethnicity, faith, disability, gender, or sexual orientation.”
Speaking to Cherwell, Jesus principal Lord John Krebs stressed that “the chant, whilst it was ill-judged and could have caused offence, does not reflect a homophobic attitude in college”.
He added, “I am very pleased that the JCR and MCR have written to apologise to their counterparts at Lincoln. I, too, would add my apology on behalf of the College to those who were upset by the chant.”
Jesus JCR’s apology concluded with an invitation for Lincoln to participate in “a supportive joint event in response to the concerns raised by the Cuppers Plate Final Rugby Match, as we believe such an occasion outside of the field will help to humanise and reconcile concerns brought forward”. Neither Lincoln nor Jesus administrators were available for comment regarding their emails discouraging students from speaking to the press.