With different elections happening this week and the next, students appear to be driven by a very clear purpose: they are fighting like rats in a sack, jostling for a small clutch of prestigious society positions. Indeed, you would be forgiven if you thought that it’s all about “political hacking” for most Oxford students.

For many people, joining societies isn’t so much about hacking as meeting new people and friends. Societies continue to attract such people, no matter how ubiquitous the hacking is or how brazen the smear campaigns are.

Yet, when it becomes clear, as it will, that people only meet you for coffee, and that such meetings are only engineered to extract loyalty and votes, new members of societies will become cynical and suspicious. And if you don’t lend your vote to one slate, that just leaves you open to the hacking tactics of another faction. We should beware of late night invitations to Missing Bean or Pret.

Hardly anything in Oxford is untouched by the culture of hacking. This makes our ability to find genuine, like-minded people in doubt. Some hacks even organise special meetings to show how desperate they are to get votes. More experienced, wiser students will tell you that the hacking culture, and the snakes it creates, has put off many students from joining societies.

No wonder that societies already face a severe identity crisis. This is in part because of the snakes that abound, combined with the image of societies being dominated by public schoolboys, have prompted many to boycott such societies.

If societies fail to make it clear to outsiders they’ve more to off er than an omnipresent, omniscient culture of hacking, many more will be put off . That would be a shame, because Oxford’s societies do have many great things to off er to those who join them.

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