The controversy surrounding the Trinity College student marriage system continues as efforts by the College’s JCR Council to reform the system were comprehensively defeated.
A motion, which was put before the Trinity JCR on Sunday 9th November, specified, “This JCR would introduce a ‘free marriage’ system instead of the current marriage ballot,” aiming to reform a marriage system labelled “antediluvian”, “past it” and “no longer fit for purpose” by students speaking to Cherwell.
The current Trinity marriage system operates through a random ballot. In effect, every marriage is ‘arranged’, with the JCR President responsible for drawing names from a hat. The system is designed to promote an inclusive college atmosphere so that no-one feels ostracized by the college marriage system.
This term, however, students have criticised the ballot system, calling it “heteronormative”, “thoughtless”, and “oppressive”. One Trinity student told Cherwell, “This system seems to me far too rigid. There isn’t enough flexibility — what if I end up with someone I can’t stand?”
Another explained, “This actually makes me quite angry. The college assumes we have no social skills and have to be forced together — it’s all very medieval.”
In 3rd Week’s JCR meeting, one student reported not having met his college father for two years, whilst others pushed for the introduction of an opt-out system, arguing a sizeable bloc opposed college marriages altogether.
Tensions flared over whether it was better to have college parents who were friends or for them to be chosen randomly so as to be more diverse. Another claimed that he had never met his wife before their ‘forced’ marriage, and one man claimed his parents had never met.
The marriage ‘opt-out’ system was adopted 30 votes to seven following the meeting.
However, subsequent attempts to reform the system have come unstuck. On Sunday 9th November Eleanor Roberts proposed that Trinity JCR switch to a ‘free marriage’ system.
They issued the following guidance, “Every member of the JCR will be free to marry whomever they want, with marriages arranged solely by the prospective couples. Marriage proposals may be made at any time from the start of Hilary Term of first year onwards.
“Each second year who has not opted out of the college children system will then be assigned, independent of marital status, one college child from the same subject.”
However, the motion failed with 18 votes for and 39 against. The defeat seems to suggest that the agitation expressed by some quarters of Trinity is far from representative of its entire JCR. One first year student present at the vote informed Cherwell, “This is a victory for democracy — it just goes to show those who shout loudest don’t always win.”
Eleanor Roberts, Trinity JCR President, told Cherwell that she could not “comment on the opinions of JCR individuals regarding the results of these motions”.
The motion’s failure was met with consternation amongst LGBTQ campaigners across Oxford. Annie Teriba, co-editor of NoHeterOx**, which campaigns for gender and LGBTQ equality, told Cherwell, “I would like to think that opposition to the proposal was based on the concerns raised in the 2nd Week meeting that an opt out system will leave students with apathetic parents.
“Still, gendered marriages force non-binary people to be mis-gendered; that is not okay. They still contribute to a heteronormative culture in which queerness is seen as beyond the realm of the acceptable. Trinity, at the very least, please de-gender your balloting process.’
An anonymous Trinity student suggested, “Many members of Trinity JCR are frankly outraged by this decision. It’s oppressive and suggests that a mixed gender family is the only viable unit.”
She added, “Many of my friends were stuck with people they didn’t particularly like as spouses — I feel like our complaints have just been railroaded.”