Every year the Norrington Table is released, an oft-cited and even more frequently bemoaned system for ranking Oxford colleges based on their exam results. But what if this system was based, not on exams, but your vote on vegetables?
Hence the new ‘Vegetarian Norrington Table’ proposed by Oxford University Animal Ethics Society, a group created to discuss the moral status of animals. They want all members of the University to rank colleges according to the quality of their vegetarian and vegan food. The table will also be based on sample menus supplied by college bursars and whether colleges have chefs trained in these eating preferences.
The initiative was driven by concerns over the “often barely adequate” provisions for different dietary requirements at Oxford colleges. President of the Society, Tobias Thornes of Oriel College, said “Many members of the Society have expressed concern about the varying provision of vegetarian and vegan food. We want to put the need for good quality vegetarian food on the agenda in Oxford.”
However as well as putting college meals in the spotlight it is also intended to help prospective students pick colleges. The Society’s Senior Member, the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, said, “Oxford is known as a place of excellence, but its vegetarian fare is often barely adequate.” He continued, “We believe that the quality of provision of vegetarian food may influence prospective students’ choice of colleges.”
The table will be released on 8th week this term, before which voting will be open from now until the end of 7th Week (3rd October – 26th November 2016). Their website gives students the chance to select what they think are the three best and worst colleges for vegetarian or vegan food, as well as providing their own anonymous statments. A number of people responded positively to the proposal on social media. One commented: “This is a great idea. Colleges should also do more to promote nutritious, i.e high protein, vegetarian and vegan options too, just as they promote green energy etc. The justification, it being better for the environment, is the same.” Yet there was some concern over the format of the survey, with one student writing: “The poll is really annoying; it relies on you voting on the quality of veggie/vegan food at the colleges you’ve been to and not getting people to report their satisfaction on their own college’s provision. I understand this reduces any bias but massively reduces the effective sample size.”
The Oxford University Animal Ethics Society has promoted this scheme with the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, which leads ethical perspectives on animals through academic research, teaching, and publication.