Monthly Archives: February 2012

Professor argues religious freedom under threat from secular values

The professor in charge of the Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Kellogg has claimed in a new book that equality and non-discrimination are being prioritised over religious freedom.

In the book, “Equality, Freedom and Religion”, Professor Roger Trigg discusses a “clear trend” of legal prioritisation of secular values in both North America and Europe.

Amongst other cases, he cites that of Nadia Eweida, a former British Airways stewardess who was asked by her employers to conceal her crucifix pendant under her uniform. She is currently waiting for her case to be heard before the European court of human rights.

Professor Trigg argues that this is just one example of courts attempting to determine the nature of religious faith for themselves, as they are prescribing what should or should not form a part of people’s religious expression.

There have been a number of high-profile court cases addressing similar themes recently, with former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey recently expressing disappointment with the recent High Court judgment preventing Bideford Town Council from including prayers on council meeting agenda.

He said in the aftermath of the ruling: “This is the gradual marginalisation of the Christian faith, being pushed to the outskirts.”

However, speaking to the Guardian newspaper, associate priest George Pitcher said: “[Christians are] not being persecuted in the democratic west. To pretend otherwise is an insult to those who really are being persecuted around the world and, frankly, rather insecure and wet.”

He added: “Rather than whinge, we need to be a bit more robust about our faith. I’m not going to say it’s about time my fellow Christians got off their knees, but I do wish they would stop complaining that everyone hates them. Because it’s not true.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Professor Trigg responded by saying: “I never mentioned persecution, which is too strong a word in this instance, but it nevertheless appears to be the case that there is a sidelining of religion in the public sphere within the UK.”

He stressed that “not all religion is good religion” but said that issues “should be argued on their merits” and that all subjective coercion, whether backed by “religious conscience” or “secular values”, should be condemned.

Future of living wage campaign discussed in Exam Schools

An Oxford councillor questioned why colleges can’t “get their finger out and pay a decent wage?” during Oxford Living Wage Forum last Thursday.

Six panellists, five of whom have a living wage background, discussed the living wage at Exam Schools in front of an audience of 150 people from all sections of the University and the local community.

During the debate councillors Bob Price, Graham Jones and Van Coulter condemned the University’s refusal to commit to the Living Wage. Coulter said: “I graduated from Ruskin College, [which] is not a rich college, in fact it’s damn poor […] and yet Ruskin can pay […] its staff a Living Wage. I’m under the impression that the Oxford colleges are a lot better off than poor little old Ruskin, so why can’t they get their finger out and pay a decent wage?” Continuing: ‘If you’re paying 55% of your income over as rent, what have you got left as disposable income?’

Professor Jane Wills, of Queen Mary, University of London, expressed a sense of the importance of the Living Wage for Higher Education institutions, noting that introducing the Living Wage is “very good for the reputation of the institution and for its brand”.

Wills said: “[Universities are] all supposed to be focused on impact, and this [Living Wage accreditation] is part of that, how we present ourselves to our local communities.”

Director of the Living Wage Foundation Rhys Moore explained how a Living Wage Campaign accreditation system on a similar model to the existing Fairtrade Mark might allow students to choose which college to apply to on ethical grounds.

Moore said “we have launched an accreditation programme for Living Wage employers […] we hope it will become a Mark of responsible employment across the country.” Continuing: “you would hope that as the movement develops the Mark becomes more recognised [so that] prospective students might choose College A over College B … because one is an accredited Living Wage College and the other isn’t.”

Moore also stated that fourteen higher education institutions in London pay the Living Wage already.  Recently, the Manchester Living Wage Campaign announced “a serious and official commitment on behalf of the University for it to institute the Living Wage”, after a meeting with Manchester University’s VC and head of Human Resources.

A Trinity College alumnus who now works at the College said “the implications of moving costs onto students must be taken into account […] the cost of living in Oxford is already very high so, if rents were to increase in order to facilitate the payment of the Living Wage, Living Wage accreditation may well operate negatively for people when choosing Colleges.”

Another Trinity alumnus said: “the Oxford Vice Chancellor is paid more that the Cambridge Vice Chancellor […] and if he was to take a pay cut, even just to bring his pay into line with that of the Cambridge VC, the reduction in his wage would be enough to pay the Living Wage to more employees of the University.”

The Oxford Living Wage Campaign was launched six years ago with Oxford Council introduced the Living Wage for its cleaning staff in 2008.

A Downturn from Dandyism

Baudelaire once defined a Dandy as one who elevates aesthetics to a living religion. Dandyism was for him “a setting sun, like the star in the decline, it is superb, without heat and full of melancholy”. The European visibility of Dandyism began in the 1760s, when, as the story goes, Coke of Norfolk, a rich British landowner came to town dressed in riding clothes, the future Dandy’s uniform, to successfully petition King George. It was a sign that after the revolution of 1688, the fashionable no longer resided at court and much political and social influence now lay with the independently minded aristocracy in the country and town estates. The model Dandy in British society was George “Beau” Brummel. When by 1798 he took his place at the centre of the powerful, insular aristocratic world of the London town, his lively presence ushered in the age of the Dandy and he became its emblem of independence, assurance, originality, self control and refinement. He was not an aristocrat by birth, but like many Dandies of the period, his clothing and style showed aspiration and self definition. Ever unpowedered, unperfumed, immaculately bathed and shaved, and dressed in a plain dark coat, he was always perfectly brushed, perfectly fitted, showing perfectly stretched linen, freshly laundered, and with an elegantly knotted cravat. Dandies in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century lacked noble blood connections and any innate characteristics of aristocracy – they were like actors living out fantasies that were never to come true and they adopted outward characteristics that aided in this public and personal deception.

These early examples of Dandyism hold a certain fascination for me – this careful and considered approach to dress and style as a tool for self definition is not something that by and large happens in our modern society in male fashion. There have been previous generations where male clothing has helped define a generation or period and been used to show ultimate male power and status– take for example the elaborate costumes on show at the 1520 Field of the Cloth of Gold, or in the late sixties and early seventies, when beautiful men could wander in skin tight jeans and paisley shirts, with long flowing hair and beards, helping to define the sexually liberalising attitude of a generation. How much does that really happen anymore? Or has the male image building fashion really taken a backseat in comparison to the ways that women dress and define themselves? Naturally there are many women and men who have never, and will never, calculate their style according to how they particularly want to present themselves. But when I see a stylish, immaculately turned out and individually dressed male, it is usually worth commenting on, whereas when it comes to stylish women, well they’re two a penny really.

My mind was unfortunately turned to Valentine’s Day this week and when forced to think back to the horror of exs past, I think of just how badly dressed the majority of them really were. My first boyfriend had a rather strange penchant for purple corduroy trousers, teamed with a black velvet jacket and a horrible black beaded necklace. Another found it a good idea to wear a boiler suit for about three weeks and call it ‘method acting’ when really it was just an excuse to constantly wear a boiler suit to school. I have had boyfriends whose clothing style ranges from the mad and hideous, to the nerdy (and not in a calculated and chic way) to the downright boring and acceptable. This may just reflect my poor taste in men, but seeing as I am a woman who puts so much careful thought into my clothes, I find it extraordinary that I have yet to find a man who is able to do the same. If there was anywhere that you might be able to find a well-turned out male, you might think that Oxford would be the place to do it. A city bubbling over with self confidence, you would assume that the same might be reflected in its dress sense. But unfortunately it does not appear so. Yes, there are undeniably men who dress well. Nice coats, nice shoes, nice shirts, nice trousers etc etc, but there are few who really are able to pull off with the same ease and elegance that individual sense of identity through fashion that so many women are able to. Many men still seem stuck in that primary school mode of wanting to look a bit like everybody else. Oscar Wilde once said, “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art”. I would really like to know when this mindset is going to be returned to the world of male fashion. Soon I hope; there are only so many mismatched combinations of coloured jeans and t-shirts with stupid slogans on them that I can bear.

Rosa Schiller Crawhurst

‘Nothing surprises us': What The Porter Saw

They’re the backbone of the university, an ever-present feature ensuring each day runs smoothly for visitors and students alike. Without them, we’d be screwed. But what do the porters themselves have to say?

“The hours are the same, but each day is different”, the head porter at one college told me. Due to the precarious nature of the Oxford reputation, few colleges agreed to be named in this piece for fear of inciting a Daily Mail storm ‘exposing’ debauchery. Those who were willing to talk, however, provided a unique snapshot into life behind-the-scenes of the university. The Oxford Student quizzed a wide range of porters on their most memorable experiences during their time at Oxford, with surprising results. Think it’s all lost keys and directing tourists to Christ Church? Think again. Pranks on tourists, rescuing a student locked in the loo, and writing detective stories on the night shift are all part and parcel of being at the hub of college life.

A permanent fixture in the lodge, porters are the all-seeing eye of the college. No need for CCTV: these guardians of the night have probably a better idea of the ins and outs of what goes on in the college than we do. They silently clock the heaviest drinkers, the most diligent workers, and the most disorganised  drifters – and that’s just the staff. We wanted to know what were the nuttiest things the porters had seen over the years. The answer? Just about everything.

‘There’s nothing the students can do that can surprise us’, one porter told me. Like what? Naked runs round the quad are a frequent occurrence at one college, along with moped races and skateboarding down the railings. Another porter recalled seeing all the statues around college covered in underwear, and another remembered dealing with irate MCR members when all their furniture was piled up on the front quad. These stories of the invariable student pranks are interspersed with more touching, and downright bizarre, tales of student life: one JCR member at a central Oxford college requested to have her hamster buried in the front quad (and was allowed); another student caused the porters’ eyebrows to finally be raised when he propped up an authentic WW2 machine gun in his room ‘for decoration’. It’s not just the sights that are sometimes a cause for concern: one porter told me of one student coming in to ask where he could get his sperm frozen.

But what about the porters themselves? They play pranks too. One set of porters told me of how they filled a fellow porter’s golf bag with ladies underwear (a seemingly recurring theme), only to open it in front of everyone on the golf course. At one of the colleges most popular with tourists, gullible visitors are just too easy to resist. “A very large overseas gentleman came in one day, and slammed his fist on the lodge demanding he see something famous”, recalled the head porter. “The college was closed to the public, but he was insistent, so we sent him down to Cornmarket to see a very famous site. He never came back to thank us, but we hope he cherishes the picture he got of McDonalds”. Another night porter told me how he writes detective stories during his shifts.

It’s being at the focal point of the college that the majority of porters found most rewarding, when asked about the best aspect of the job. “We’re a surrogate family”, said one. Nothing fazes them either – whether it’s stealing a memorial bench or planting 300 condoms around the front quad, the porters have seen it all before. And in fact for many, it’s a perk. When asked about the pranks and the piss-ups, a head porter who organised the underwear joke on his colleague had this to say: ‘Too much salt ruins a meal… but just a little enhances it’.

Madeleine Maxwell-Libby

PHOTO/TEDizen

The Oscars – Live Blog

Dear world, welcome to the official OxStu Oscars liveblog. Tonight, the OxStu film team will be pulling out all the stops to give you a glorious extravaganza of an evening. Sit back, relax and enjoy as OxStu film’s very own three wise men take you through the coverage, from bad dresses to minor upsets. Refresh manually.

05:35 – The final awards go thus: Balthazar who has 17/24 while Melchior and Caspar have 16/24. A great win for Balthazar. Anyway, the Oscars were quite enthralling despite Billy Crystal’s inept presenting. See you next year.

– p.s. our ‘code names’ were horribly pretentious weren’t they? So much for the Oxford stereotype…

05:20 – So the the final results go thus: The Artist is the best film of the year, with the best actor and director. That was a well deserved award for a film that will rank up there with the greats: a stunning film. Hugo took the most Oscars, if not the best ones, but it was a very good film nonetheless. The Artist may not have the quantity of Oscars, but it has the quality.

04:51 – The Artist  won the key awards today, a vindication of its quality. The Artist was the standout film of the year, Michael Hazanavicius deserved his award and Jean Dujardin was truly exceptional in his role. Well deserved.

04:36 – The Artist won. Hurr durr…

04:27 – Actress…Streep…It’s pavlovian by now surely. If a pavlovian response included repeated snubs in which case she’s owed the crying. She saved it with ‘the never getting it again’ statement. Stop crying.

04:26 – Firth is fit. Done.

04:12 – We’ve missed a massive portion of the Oscars due to SOPA…that’ll get the internet-literate types going.

03:53 – A deserved win for The Artist. It was a fantastic film, and superbly directed. The OxStu team all got it right. Well done, although I’m not a big fan of the speech.

03:47 – Huge win for Fantastic Flying Books. Well deserved for a fantastic film.

03:43 – Balthazar is coined Balthar-twat and Saving Face wins. He predicted it. Horrible.

03:40 – I got overexcited when I thought the Academy had compensated with a Bridesmaid’s original screenplay…alas they went to The Shore. Hinds wins again.

03:30- Woody Allen wins original screenplay, grow up. It’s culturally significant.

03:27 – Descendants win best adapted screenaplay. One of the few times the three wise men have managed to agree.

03:25 – Never seen a presenter applauded so much for leaving.

03:18 – Man or Muppet won best…you know the rest.

03:14 – Best score goes to The Artist. Of course it does.

03:12 – Owen Wilson is back. He tried to kill himself a few years ago…Pointing that out was probably insensitive…Actually it was.

03:00 – Supporting actor time – Plummer. Everyone sighs in relief.

02:53 – Emma Stone is nailing presenting. Rise for 2, Harry Potter for an ill-advised one prediction. Hugo wins. Shots all round.

02:49 – Just saw a horrific gun advert. Glad to be British.

02:47  – Animated feature counted. Caspar and Balthasar on 7/11, Melchior lagging on 5/11.

02:45 – Chris Rock funniest presenter so far.

02:44 – Caspar wins documentary for Undefeated. Shame on Academy for not picking Purgatory.

02:38 – Some form of dancing. What is this?

02:35 – Caspar describes Miss Piggy as oddly alluring.

02:32 – Melchior is the only one not to have seen Leon. Shame on  him. He drinks.

02:30  – Portman unanimously agreed to  be crazy fit. She is easily the best looking Israeli Harvard visiting lecturer I know.

02:27- Casper out on a limb with Transformers here. Two others for Hugo. Hugo wins and Casper is humbled. Hugo does deserve it and Michael Bay deserves to be repeatedly decapitated. You win some you lose some.

02:26 – 5-5-3-here scores wise. Hugo wins sound editing and drive doesn’t. Travesty.

02:23 – 2 for The Artist here for editing. Casper is out on a limb with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo He wins and takes it takes it in suitably subtle fashion.

02:19 – Billy Crystal actually makes relevant and insightful comment about how Hollywood works. Shocking. I applaud him for this. Shame it couldn’t have come half an hour earlier.

02:15 – First tears of the night from Spencer. Something tells  me they won’t be the last.

02:12 – As an addendum we’ve all gone for Spencer. And she wins! Insert {OUCA was one allegedly insensitive} joke here.

02:11 – Bale is up. He’s going to fuck shit up surely…or is that OUCA when Otavia Spencer wins?

02:10 – Billy Crystal. Go home. Go home now.

02:08 – A Separation wins best foreign language film. OxStu central goes wild. Well deserved.

02:06 – Daniel Day-Lewis may be a great actor, but he’s a total nutcase as well. I know this is irrelevant. Also, Sandra Bullock is speaking Chinese. WTF?

02:04 – The Lorax is about economic responsibility guys not SUVs. A kind reminder from Balthazar there.

02:00 – OxStu wise men all correct on makeup. Clearly we have a calling.

01:57 – For all those E! fans out there it’s make-up!!! The FETCHest of categories. We’ve all gone for The Iron Lady. The Iron Lady wins! Melchior is off the mark. And on to a sure loss we’re all sure.

01:54 – Costume design time. 1 for Hugo, The Artist and W.E. The Artist wins and Balthazar loses his shit. Melchior is losing with 0 wins. ..

01:54 – Fun fact – Billy Crystal isn’t funny.

01:51 – Tree of Life is dividing the room. Is it great, pretentious or both. Also, is Billy Crystal the worst presenter ever?

01:46 – Why isn’t Tom Hanks presenting the Oscars? He’s such a charming man.

01:45 – Casper won with art design there correctly guessing Hugo. See start of blog for glib, horrible and ineffectual slander.

01:44  – We got cinematography wrong with Tree of Life. Hugo won and creativity and artistic integrity died.

01:43 – Tom Hanks comes to the stage, instantly gets more laughs than Billy Crystal.

01:42 Carl Swaybo is looking SWANK. MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!

01:41 Absolutely dying on his bloated ass.

01:40 – Billy Crystal is singing. What the hell?

01:38 – Caspar first mentions Fassbender’s orgasm face, and then follows up by exclaiming “bollocks!” at Tree of Life. I think he may have genitalia on the brain.

01:36 – Casper thinks that Fassbender crying into the camera and climaxing was the best film this year.

01:32 – Whenever you think of Clooney you always forget he was ER don’t you? You’re an idiot.

01:25 – Films that hit us emotionally: Caspar – United 93, Melchior – Toy Story 3, Balthasar – Million Dollar Baby. You may not have realised, but this is starting to drag.

01:22 – Tom Hanks just came onscreen. I’m not a huge fan. Thanks, but no Hanks.

01:15 – Our rules dictate we have to say a certain famous phrase whenever certain people come on screen. Angelina Jolie has had a completely forgettable career.

01:14 Just compared what movie posters we have on our walls. Balthazar unsurprisingly treasures his American Beauty ‘naked girl in flowers’ poster above all.

01:11 – George Clooney is standing next to an attractive woman. Balthasar is the only one able to identify her. His internet history comes under suspicion.

01:07 – We just did a straw poll of how many academy award winners came from each college. Balthasar and Melchior have one each, Caspar seems more interested in baptist ministers.

01:06 – Bradley Cooper’s new moustache is as ill advised as an application to Regent’s Park.

01:04 – My DAIZ! Bradley Cooper has a ‘stache! Still Beaut though. Still fetch.

01:02 – Muppets interview. Fun fact: there exists muppet porn on the internet. Caspar is a fan. See Rule 34.

01:01 – Cameron Diaz interview. Fun fact: She starred in a soft porn before she was famous. Balthazar’s a fan.

01:00 – Just saw an advert with William Shatner dancing. I might go to bed now.

00:58 – Cheese pizza advert now. With a dog. Can’t help but think about all of the Oscar buzz about what is obstensibly an animal. Then I realised that’s mental and that everyone needs to grow up.

00:56 – Caspar has mentioned Sucker Punch, fortunately it went largely unnoticed as Melchior drooled over an interview with Penelope Cruz.

00:54 – Vampire Diaries is being mentioned…can’t help but feel that E!’s coverage has lost some of the film-centric integrity that it has adhered to thus far.

00:52 – In a similar vein, I wonder what OULC thought of The Iron Lady?

00:51 – Thought for the day…I wonder what OUCA thinks of The Help?

00:48 – Caspar seems to be under the delusion that he’s writing for E! He’s not. He’s involved with a far classier organisation; The OxStu

00:46 – Kristen Wiig is looking resplendent. And such a good writer too!…the world is her oyster. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!! She’s looking so fetch!

00:42 – Balthasar’s chat just gets worse. Spare me. In other news, he has big love for Emma Stone.

00:39 – When do the academy awards actually start? The combination of dress analysis and Balthasar’s awful chat is driving me to an early death.

00:27 – No sighting of cinematic maestro Uwe Boll yet. We still await the arrival of Germany’s premier director; the man behind such classics as House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark.

00:25 – First incorrect identification of the night has emerged from the mouth of Caspar. Octavia Spencer has been identified as Viola Davis. Poor error, particularly given our earlier post about Viola Davis’ green dress.

00:18 – Sacha Baron-Cohen has outdone himself today. Not only has he turned up in a silly costume, but he just poured an urn of ashes over the presenter for E! How exciting. The presenter didn’t seem too pleased.

00:10 – Sacha Baron Cohen has arrived, and is in character as the dictator. Fingers crossed that his new film is better than Bruno; it shouldn’t be too hard.

00:08 – Final predictions are in. Caspar has already lost.

00:03 – While making predictions, Caspar rapidly declares himself out of the race with stupid decisions.

23:50 – Rooney Mara has just been spotted. Fun fact, she got her nipples pierced for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

23:48 – Kelly Osborne is telling me about dress colour composition. This is shaping up to be a long, long evening.

23:43 – The red carpet ceremony has kicked off, Viola Davis is in green and George Clooney is, quite predictably, wearing a suit. The evening is hotting up.

Chipping In: AVB will get by with a little help from his friends

When the news broke in the summer that Chelsea had agreed to Porto’s release fee for manager André Villas-Boas, I really felt that that was their best signing of the summer. His age, incredible track record and consequent success in Portugal, not to mention his experience shadowing Mourinho made him the ideal candidate to take over from the departing Carlo Ancelotti.

Things, as have been well documented over the course of this season, have not been very rosy for him. The reason for their sudden decline in form is unclear – the current Chelsea team probably has the best balance of youth and experience that it has had in the past six years or so. A concern for Chelsea fans has been the aging of the squad; the need for a transition – perhaps both this and success cannot be expected immediately.

For what my opinion is worth though, I think it is to do with more than just a phase. The Chelsea dressing room is filled with personalities, who are quite used to playing every week, so being dropped for more than one fixture at a time must come as a shock to the system. AVB’s age doesn’t help either – at 34, he is of a similar age to the big names in the squad. The perception of authority is obviously marred to some extent in such a situation. The same players haven’t performed when the time was necessary – and this includes the likes of Lampard, Drogba, Cole, Malouda and of course, Torres.

Not to mention the overpowering figure in owner Roman Abramovich yet. It must be one of the downsides of the Chelsea manager’s job when one has managers’ life expectancy down in one corner of the mind. Abramovich is certainly not known for his patience with his managers either, piling even further pressure on AVB.

Villas-Boas needs to be given time. A transitional period is never an easy time for any club. AVB has brought with him a continental philosophy and style of play, and that certainly showed during the early part of the season, when Chelsea were finally managing to shake-off their tag as a “boring”, and “robotic” outfit. Success during this time will be difficult to come by, especially when your players come out in the media to air their frustrations with the manager.

AVB’s goal is a noble one – to build a Chelsea team that will be able to sustain success for the next few years. If it means that the same will be in short supply at the present time, then the owner, the fans and the players need to be patient. His meticulous approach and a no-holds-barred approach to man-management are never bad traits for a manager to have.

The Oxford Student

One Step Ahead Since 1991