Magdalen College JCR has passed a motion in solidarity with suspended students against an “error” in the terms and conditions of the 2016 Commemoration Ball which would have banned them from attending.
In the initial terms and conditions laid out for the famous June Ball, clause 2.5 read, “In accordance with Magdalen College’s policy regarding out of residence students…the Senior Tutor and Deans of Arts will not grant any request from any student who is out of residence, whether on health or disciplinary grounds, to enter the college for the purpose of attending the Ball.”
Immediately prior to the JCR meeting last Sunday, where the matter was set to be discussed, the Senior Tutor, Dr Mark Pobjoy, wrote to the JCR President, Rosie Dickinson, acknowledging that “It is clear there is a mistake in the terms and conditions.” The Senior Tutor also said that he would work with the Ball Committee to review applications by suspended students on a case-by-case basis.
At its subsequent meeting, the JCR mandated the President “To inform the College that the JCR welcomes the Senior Tutor’s change of policy, but urges it to consider further action” . Such further action includes cooperating with the relevant OUSU officers to resolve the matter, and pursuing a process of reviewing applications which is “transparent and fully explained to the student concerned”.
The motion passed at last week’s General Meeting also noted that “not allowing students with suspended status to attend the Ball may be extremely distressing for those individuals affected” and “students suspend for a variety of reasons, most of which are on health rather than disciplinary grounds”. Also passed at the meeting were an expression of solidarity with “those students intermitted on medical grounds”, as well as a mandate to set up a focus group to consider intermission policy in general. These votes were passed unanimously, with more than 80 attending the meeting.
One Magdalen student, explaining to Cherwell why he had backed the JCR’s decision, said, “Whilst I’m normally against rusticated students being allowed to return to college – rustication is meant to be an opportunity for students to take a break from College life to recover – the Ball is an exceptional circumstance. It falls out of the term dates so should be seen as an opportunity to get together with friends and celebrate Magdalen life. “The current policy is not only discriminatory towards those with health issues, but it can also create further distress for them by their very exclusion and being denied the chance to see friends, especially since members of other colleges are all welcome.”
There appear to be some Magdalen students who are uncertain how far suspended students will benefit from the change: one noted that last year, when a similar case-by-case review was run, a number of suspended students were still not permitted to attend, and the JCR motion itself noted, “Whilst the 2015 policy is a step forward from the previous policy of an outright blanket ban, there is still a lot of room for improvement.” Some other members of the college seem broadly content with the progress made, with one commending the “more tactful approach” that was now being employed.
Others criticised the attitude of the College that they perceived this ‘error’ revealed. One Magdalen third-year commented, “It’s not really good enough for College to say that this was a simple mistake. Previous JCRs campaigned hard for this most basic of rights for intermitted students. Is this something you just ‘forget’? It just indicates a fuck-you attitude towards vulnerable students.”
Solidarity with rusticated students was also shown by Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) on Wednesday evening. A motion to create a campaign called the Suspended Status Campaign to push for more support to be given by colleges and the university to rusticated students passed unanimously.
The motion, proposed by Kate Cole and seconded by Cat Jones, noted that the number of students suspending their studies during their time at Oxford is increasing and that “there is little or no consistency between the colleges in regard to suspension policy or the information given to students who suspend their studies.”
It also noted, “There is little or no support for students who are suspended” and expressed belief that this needs to be changed.
The motion resolved to create the campaign and to mandate the Vice President of Access and Academic Affairs to “form an Executive for the Campaign and ensure the Executive endorses the draft constitution within a month of this motion passing.”
The motion passed unanimously without debate.