Queen’s College JCR has voted to ban all exec members from being members of “exclusive and/or secretive dining societies” in Oxford.
Participation in these societies, which hold regular social events, is by invite only. They are also granted access to the SCR wine cellar.
In a meeting that lasted around 2 hours and 45 minutes, the motion passed with 94 votes for, 19 against and 5 abstentions. The vote was conducted by secret ballot due to the controversial nature of the motion.
Alice Shepherd and Ciara Moran, the proposer and seconder of the motion, spoke to the Oxford Student before the meeting: “The presence of exclusive societies like these reinforces the idea that Oxford is not an inclusive space.
“We think it’s important we pass this motion to show that this JCR at the very least stands for inclusion. This motion is targeted specifically at the exec because we believe we as exec members need to set the standard and embody the values of the rest of the JCR.”
Queen’s currently has 3 exclusive dining societies: Reginae, Eaglets and Halcyon. The latter is currently inactive. All three were named specifically in the motion but an amendment passed means that JCR exec members cannot be part of any exclusive dining society at Oxford University. A fourth dining society, the Addison Society, exists but any member of Queen’s College can ballot for a place on dinners.
It is the official position of Queen’s JCR to discourage JCR members from joining these three exclusive societies if they are invited as they “do not align with the ethos of the JCR.” It is a constitutional requirement that the JCR President emails every JCR member no later than the third week of Trinity term each year discouraging JCR members from accepting invitations to these exclusive societies.
Arguments against the motion centred round the rights of JCR members to freedom of association. The Queen’s College JCR constitution states: “All members of the JCR…have rights to freedom of association, correspondence, movement, expression, speech.”
A member of the all-male Eaglets, who wishes to remain anonymous, has commented: “I can sympathise with the view that societies should be more open, but I think it’s a very different matter to apply this to the JCR exec. The exec should represent everyone in college and this impinges upon the rights of JCR members whose right to behave as they wish in private is enshrined in the constitution.
“If individuals don’t want to vote for drinking society members in elections then that’s totally legitimate but to make it a bar for office is unnecessary.”
Several amendments were passed on the motion including that JCR exec members could not attend the events of these societies as guests of members. Another amendment changed the ban to apply only to future exec members.
In the same meeting, Queen’s also voted to install a “Class Representative” executive role that would “be responsible for matters specifically concerning those members of the JCR who are working class, low income, state comp educated, and/or first gen students”.
Ross Lawrence, Queen’s Access and Outreach officer, spoke of the importance of the role: “Queen’s has a good support and welfare system, but an elected Class Representative would allow specific, confidential support and representation.
“Such a representative would be an explicit voice for these students in debates within the JCR, provide specific advice, identify and publicise what support is available through the college and the university (both pastoral and financial) and provide a direct link between the JCR Executive and Oxford SU’s Class Act Campaign.”