A JCR bop at St John’s which was originally given an ‘XXXmas’ theme has caused substantial controversy within the College.
The bop, held on Saturday 22 November 22, is reportedly an annual tradition at the College, with costumes usually “scantily-clad” but “festive themed”, as described by students. The theme was changed to ‘Xmas Bop’ just a few hours beforehand, after the College’s Junior Dean was forced to step in.
The controversy began when one student posted on the JCR Facebook page on Friday expressing dissatisfaction that the title unnecessarily endorsed an overtly sexual theme, which “would make some students feel uncomfortable”. Many of the student comments on the Facebook post expressed opposition to the said student’s suggestion of a name change.
In response to the suggestion, the college’s Junior Dean sent out an email on Saturday evening — the day of the bop — to announce that the bop title was to be changed to ‘Xmas Bop’, in light of the existing bop theme making people feel uncomfortable.
In the hours leading up to the bop, many St John’s students expressed dissatisfaction with the decision by posting on the JCR’s Facebook page, with some students sharing photos of themselves in “scantily clad” costumes in protest.
Mike Jennings, a second year medic, told Cherwell, “While I wish bops to be as inclusive as possible, it is also desirable that they be fun. Bops are usually given names that are designed to capture the imagination of the students, be it ‘hilarious’ puns or something a little bit provocative that’s designed to make people laugh or just smile and think, ‘Well done Entz, that’s a funny theme.’ Otherwise you’re just boozing tragically in a slightly awkward sweaty room.”
Jennings expressed “disappointment” with the decision to change the bop theme, saying, “I like to think that students particularly might be able to see the funny side of a so-titled event and I think it is unfortunate that some individuals took offence.
“I have never seen a more scantily clad bop. It seems the students voted with their bodies, in favour of bops being a laugh – as I think they should be.”
He addded, “It was a very funny night.”
A JCR meeting was called after the bop, which first year PPEist Zoe Carmichael described as “literally jam packed with people”.
Discussions in the meeting ranged from the hard-core pornographic implications of ‘XXX’ to the possibility of a committee to approve bop themes. Several St John’s students declined to comment on the issue, while the college could not be reached.
St John’s is not the only college JCR to have caused offence with its choice of bop themes. For many years, Jesus’ JCR held a ‘Slag and Drag’ themed Christmas event, which involved a similar style of costumes to the St John’s bop. Despite the name being dropped from the official term card last year, the bop was still colloquially known as ‘Slag and Drag’ throughout the college.
Jesus JCR Social Secretary Catriona Thomson insisted, “At our last JCR meeting, a discussion was facilitated over concerns that the colloquial name of the event is both degrading and puts pressure on people to dress-up in a certain way.
“The outcome of the discussion was to make it clear that the JCR has identified the problems with the previous theme, and to make it clear that although people are welcome to wear whatever they choose to the bar party, they are in no way obligated to dress in ‘slag and drag’.”
As Social Secretary, Thomson vowed to working with the rest of the JCR committee to create an officially themed event with a completely different Christmas theme.