Somerville JCR last Sunday passed a motion mandating their secretary to include a “memes section” in their weekly notices.
The college’s JCR voted by a majority of 23 to 3 in favour of including “exactly five of the dankest memes” as a part of the JCR notices, which are sent weekly to students by email and contain information about college life.
The motion, tabled by Somerville JCR president Alex Crichton-Miller and seconded by secretary ‘KJ’ Kim, expressed the belief that students ought to be “encouraged to read the weekly notices”, resolving that this objective “may perhaps be achieved through memes”. The motion described the JCR notices in their previous form as “not fun, nor widely read”.
In its final version, the motion invites students to submit memes either by email or over Facebook to the JCR secretary who will then select five, including one “top meme”, the proponent of which will be awarded a “prize of three bop juice tokens”. Students are limited to one volunteered meme per week and memes need not necessarily relate directly to Somerville.
Questions over whether the introduction of memes to JCR literature will improve student involvement have divided students within the college.
One second-year Biochemist at Somerville, who wished to remain anonymous, told Cherwell that the change will likely prove “a great way of increasing the readership of motions subsequent, as people will pay more attention, even if only for the memes”.
However, this student added: “The idea that such a political college with so much attention to politics and ‘political correctness’ needs ‘dank memes’ to increase readers is ironic”, and was a sign that “most motions are irrelevant to the majority [of students]”.
A second-year Somerville biologist told Cherwell that he was “surprised that [the JCR] want to use memes” since they “seem to get offended by anything”, suggesting that future memes might be a fresh source of “controversy”.
“Hopefully it is a step towards the right direction, where, through memes, the people will eventually be able to throw off the yoke that the JCR offence-fanatic division holds over the institution.”
Ada Pospiszyl, one of the administrators of Facebook page Oxford Dank Memes Society, told Cherwell: “If they were to be Somerville related memes then it would be a very effective way to get people to engage with college news – reading the secretary’s notices would help you create more relevant content.
“It definitely isn’t a sign of dumbing down, quite the opposite. It’s not like there was ever a moment in the history of Oxford when people were genuinely interested in JCR politics, and introducing memes to the notices is a very clever way of potentially changing that and getting more people involved.”
This sentiment was echoed by the Facebook meme-page Memebridge, who told Cherwell the move could “be useful to provide some element of political engagement, but only if done correctly.” They reflected further that while memes “do provide a way to get people talking about things they wouldn’t normally consider… the fact that memes are being seen as a way to get people talking about college things is probably a sign that people aren’t engaged in it enough.”