Exeter students are set to boycott hall today in protest against the College’s refusal to listen to student demands during rent negotiations.
The College has refused to reduce the catering fee, which is currently a whopping £840 a year. This is far greater than any other college, and Exeter students still have to pay high meal prices on top of this.
In negotiations with the college, the JCR and MCR proposed a modest reduction in this fee, by allowing for £100 of the catering fee to be redeemed.
This suggestion was not agreed to by the bursar, who instead made the small concession of four free Second Halls a term, worth about £22 in total.
In protest, students have organized ‘hall-ternatives’ for all three meals today which will allow students to eat in college for a much smaller fee than that charged by hall- around 50p for lunch and £1.50 for dinner.
Ed Nickell, the JCR president, stated: “As every JCR Member knows, Exeter is an incredibly expensive place to live. Ever since the last contract was signed, five years ago, the catering charge for students living both in and out of College has been subject to an exorbitant increase.
“But now, as this contract has finally expired, we have another chance to get a fair deal.”
He added: “Currently, Exeter has the largest catering charge in Oxford – in fact it is a whopping £126 bigger than the next largest, New College, and they are able to redeem their charge in Hall anyway. This brings the effective cost of breakfast to £3.09, lunch to £4.12 and Dinner to £8.24. We all agree this is not acceptable, and now, at last, we have a chance to do something about it.”
Current hall prices contributed to its extremely poor performance in a recent student barometer survey where the College was ranked bottom for living cost satisfaction, 2nd bottom for hall satisfaction and 3rd most expensive of all undergraduate colleges.
Sam Perkins, a second year from Exeter, commented: “Frustration has been building for a long time within Exeter, and given that we have finally got this opportunity to re-negotiate the catering charges, it is very important that we do something.
“I think that the fact that we haven’t been given anywhere as many opportunities to discuss things with the governing body is ridiculous, and hopefully by taking some joint symbolic action will make them realise that the student body really does worry about the scale of our living costs.”
The ‘Hall-ternatives’ event was organized after a JCR meeting last night, when the JCR resolved to make a statement before the Finance and Estates meeting due to be held on Wednesday.
In that short time, over 150 people have joined the Facebook group saying they are not going to hall, and many have left supportive messages about the event.
The issues surrounding the catering fee are closely intertwined with issues regarding the student rents for next year, which were discussed in the same meeting between the student representatives and the bursar.
The JCR and MCR proposed that rents be frozen, arguing that the financial situation of students has been fixed in recent years, while the college has benefited from a 12% increase in income from conferences and above-inflation rent increases.
Ed Nickell and Mishra Challenger, JCR and MCR presidents respectively, therefore wrote to the bursar stating that: “Rising costs mean that it is not possible to ensure both students and the College accounts are unaffected. Given that the costs must be borne, they should be borne on a basis of ability to pay. Unless there is convincing evidence that student ability to pay is greater than College’s, College should bear these costs.”
The Bursar responded to these comments in a letter sent to both Nickell and Challenger, arguing: “While I accept that some students do and will always struggle financially, an institution such as Exeter cannot base its rent charges on what the poorest student feels is affordable.
“It is the role of bursaries and other forms of academic grant and hardship funding to deal with genuine need and ensure, in as far as possible, the fairest distribution of limited resources… Any further subvention of resources to accommodation would necessitate a diversion from the funding of academic activities in the College.”
New Exeter JCR president Ed Nickell is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to maximise student accommodation in the centre of Oxford, including a controversial proposal to “evict the Rector” to free up space.
He was recently elected on a manifesto to “Convert the Rector’s lodgings into student rooms” and “move the Rector (who can commute) to a nicer house in North Oxford,” in an attempt to enable more Exeter students to live in college.
Nickell commented that this proposal was merely one idea amongst many, and that: “If I were David Cameron (god forbid) they’d be calling it ‘blue-sky’ thinking.”
This “blue-sky thinking” received a good-natured response from the Rector via Twitter: “Hmm. Our new JCR President’s manifesto promise is to turn the Lodgings into student housing. An imaginative start….”
Sam Perkins, a second year student, who is currently living in Cowley due to housing shortages within college, commented: “A bold move, from a bold President, but I’d say not exactly the most easily attainable of goals.”
However, Perkins went on to support the plans for evicting the Rector, saying: “Though I believe she does spend quite a lot of her time at her home in London anyway, so perhaps it wouldn’t affect her too much.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, this plan has not come to fruition and an agreement between the JCR and College has been reached on a less radical proposal to extend student accommodation on a new site on Walton Street, near Worcester College.
This was also pledged in the election manifesto where Nickell wrote that under his leadership the JCR would: “Demand more student rooms in Walton Street. More than the paltry dozen that will cost us millions of pounds.”
This idea has received support from the Rector, who commented: “Ed and I are in complete agreement on the need for more rooms for Exeter students in central Oxford, but we have come up with a better idea.”
“The College plans to build new accommodation on the large new site we have acquired next to Worcester.
“We plan over 90 new rooms there, many more than could be squeezed into the lodgings.”
This increase in rooms will be a huge bonus to many students at Exeter who have to find their own accommodation for both second and third year.
Numerous colleges in recent years have begun providing accommodation for all three years and it seems that Exeter will be the next college to offer this to students.
Nickell said: “Many students privately renting become stressed and distracted by housing issues, whether it be a boiler breaking or a 30 minute limp from Cowley to College on crutches. Never mind a walk of shame, for some of us it’s a trek!”
He added: “It’s important for the JCR to press for every possible improvement, hence even the most seemingly outlandish solutions should be discussed.”
Students have been told their fortunes through pigeon post over the past few days as Exeter College distributed hundreds of Ball-related fortune cookies.
The new method of guerrilla marketing has seen the Exeter College “Carnivalia” Ball-branded fortune cookies appear in pidges in several colleges. Five messages, personalised to the Ball, have so far been gathered, inviting students to buy tickets for the event in Trinity Term.
Freya Hadrill, Committee Member for PR and Marketing, said: “The idea is inspired by one element of our theme – the Carnivalia Ball is rooted in the idea of carnivals from all around the World and the Chinese Carnival area particularly represents one of the most vibrant and well known aspects of global carnivals.”
“With so many balls out there and competition to draw attention to your own ball and sell tickets, it’s important to do something a little different. Promotional gimmicks can not only be entertaining and surprising but also a talking point – and that’s what we want – to get people talking.
“Even if someone who finds a fortune cookie in their pidge isn’t drawn in, they’ve got a free biscuit, so nobody is complaining.”
Vicki Arnott, a second year at St. Anne’s, said: “I think it’s a good idea. It gets people talking and it’s quite a novel thing to do.”
However, a first year at St Hilda’s commented: “It seems a bit gimmicky. You can’t deny it will raise awareness and it will get people talking for a while, but we’ll have to wait and see whether it gets translated into ticket sales.”
Exeter College is set to implement an “unprecedented” set of vetting measures for organisations hoping to hold events at the college.
The decision comes in the wake of the controversy sparked by the College’s decision to allow the Wilberforce Academy to hold a conference there during the coming vac.
Students were angered that the Academy, which is organised by the anti-gay Evangelical pressure group Christian Concern, might be able to use the college’s prestige to legitimise their own beliefs.
A meeting of the College’s governing body came to the decision to set up a Working Group which will include both students and fellows, and will deliberate on a new set of regulations concerned with private bookings of college facilities.
The College Bursar, William Jensen, explained that the aim of the group will be to bring around a set of regulations which would in future ensure that groups holding conferences at the college would be “appropriate” to the ethos of the college.
When asked if any decisions had been made regarding the Wilberforce Academy specifically he said that “the matter hasn’t arisen” and that no specific decisions have been made. However, he did comment that he thought the Academy was “unlikely to want to come back”. When asked to give his opinion on the original decision to allow the Academy to come to the college the Bursar declined to comment.
The Chaplain of the College, Stephen Hearn, who also attended the governance meeting, confirmed that the college would be “reviewing all future applications for bookings”.
The decision has been applauded by the college’s student community, with LGBTQ rep Ed Allnutt commenting: “When Exeter JCR first became aware of the Wilberforce Academy’s upcoming conference, there was a righteous level of indignation. We were worried that people with homophobic views would be sharing our living space, and, worst of all, would be able to use the college and the university as a whole in their publicity.
“Following the uproar and your article on the issue, College have now promised us a vetting process for the future, which I would say, in agreement with the governing body, will be a precedent-setting move. We as students were right to feel angry about the conference; the OxStu was right to raise publicity about it and the governing body has been right to take such swift action.” Allnutt then went on to say that although no decision concerning the Wilberforce Academy had yet been made, he was “confident that these new proposals will mean that the Academy will not be allowed to hold any events at our college in the future”.
Another Exeter second year praised the College administration’s initiative but added that: “I think it’s a shame that something like the Christian Concern debacle had to occur to make change happen. But I still feel proud of the way Exeter has responded, and I hope that other colleges will follow this example”.
Exeter Rector Frances Cairncross declined to comment on the new initiative.
Is Exeter College supporting homophobia? Many colleges host conferences; in fact for poorer colleges they’re essential to keep finances afloat. But it can’t be denied that Christian Concern will also profit from Exeter’s decision; the reputation of this ancient institution will give the group an air of respectability and moderation.
This is wrong; Exeter College’s reputation has been built up through tolerance, intellectual freedom and critical thought. Basically, all the things Christian Concern aren’t. While Oxford undoubtedly has Christian roots, we should not pretend that this Christianity is anything like the evangelical, aggressive and uncompromising brand of religion practised by Christian Concern and associated groups.
Do not delude yourself; Christian Concern is homophobic and makes a point of demonising the LGBT community. They advocate “corrective therapy” for a number of students, many of whom are at Exeter. That fact alone should make College officials run a thousand miles. The key point here is that Christian Concern not only holds strong opinions, but during their conference will actively incite hatred against people whose sexual orientation is different to theirs. Free speech in this country was intended so we could freely hold opinions, not so we could cause pain to others.
Nor should religious groups should be exempt from the expectations we attach to each other. Having a strongly held belief does not mean Christian Concern deserves better treatment, and should not be an excuse for Exeter to ignore their extremist views. Would Exeter accept an extremist Islamic Preacher? Would the BNP be welcome to host an event?
The very fact that Christianity can be equated to such appalling people should make moderate Christians wake up and show us the true character of their faith. The culture of silence at the Oxford Inter Collegiate Christian Union must end; by refusing to comment they appear to the rest of us to be tolerating homophobia, and plays to many negative stereotypes about religion. If Christianity is better, then its believers must stand up and say so.
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New College narrowly rejected a motion on Sunday night to send a statement of “strong disapproval of Exeter College’s decision to host Christian Concern’s conference” to Exeter’s Rector and JCR President.
The motion was put forward following anger after The Oxford Student revealed that the college is to host the Wilberforce Academy over the Easter Vacation. The Academy is organised by Christian Concern, an organisation widely accused of holding homophobic views.
The proposal was discussed in heated debate for 45 minutes on Sunday night. The main point of contention regarded the Wilberforce Academy’s right to free speech.
Students disagreed on whether Christian Concern is in fact homophobic, as well as issues of free speech surrounding the subject. It was also noted that Exeter would face up to £150,000 in legal costs for breach of contract, and doubts were raised about the validity of the JCR vote as a sufficiently representative mechanism for expressing the opinions of the student body. Some students also feared that New College would potentially be portrayed negatively in the media as a result.
After an initial move to vote was rejected to continue debate, the decision was taken that as the motion involved an “ethical issue”, a “supermajority” of two thirds would be necessary to pass it. The second move to vote led to a 33-32 majority, which meant the motion was rejected.
Timothy Anderson, who seconded the motion, said he was “disappointed” by the decision, adding: “Ironically, in the very same meeting, a motion was passed without opposition to mandate our LGBTQ officer to request permission to raise the rainbow flag above college on the last day of LGBTQ History Month. From this, it’s clear that there was more at play than a gay rights debate.”
He added that had “never felt discriminated against” as a gay person in college. “What was clear from the meeting to me personally was that even some of those who are tolerant and accepting fail to understand quite how important an issue this is for certain members of our community.”
He continued: “Some of the things said were plainly insulting but very few people seemed to realise this when the debate veered off into a discussion of homosexuality itself. I hoped that the JCR of New College would take it upon themselves to express that this sits outside of the values and beliefs of our community and it’s disappointing to see that we, as a JCR, don’t have enough confidence in values which are so evident in our other activities.”
Many Exeter students felt their college had been unfairly characterised. Edward Allnutt and Ella Mae Lewis said, “on behalf of the Exeter LGBTQ community”: “We would like to highlight to readers that from the perspective of our (very well-established) LGBTQ society, Exeter College is extremely welcoming towards its LGBTQ staff and students.
“We continue to maintain our strong disagreement with the views held by Christian Concern.”
The response from some students at Exeter, however, was nonchalant. Low Xi De, a third year at Exeter, commented, “They’re entitled to their opinion. Free speech goes both ways obviously.”
By Richard Foord
Mansfield/Merton pulled off a dramatic last-minute comeback against Exeter college, coming back from 3-1 down at the break to earn a deserved point in the last minute. The result is not ideal for either however, as they both drop dangerously close to the bottom of the premier league table.
Exeter enjoyed the best possible start to the match, converting in the first minute. The Mertsfield defence failing to deal with a cross from the right wing, Hunter’s header looping tamely to Exeter’s Platt who calming slotted past the goalkeeper into the far corner.
Rather than capitulating Mertsfield calmly began to play their way into the game, Captain Samuel Firman asserting himself with several strong direct runs into Exeter territory. However lone striker Adam Zimmerman cut an isolated figure up front as Mertsfield struggled to create any clear openings.
Nevertheless their perseverance paid off 20 minutes into the game. Right wing ho-joon kim whipping a viscous ball in from the right wing which cannoned around a host of legs before arriving Exeter full back Rob Ainsworth bundled the ball into his own net.
The game subsequently settled down for a spell before Mertsfield’s Hunter was caught in possession on half-way by the persistent Platt, who, in on the keeper, proceeded to slot his second of the match, reinstating Exeters lead as well as cementing his own position at the top of the premier league goal-scoring chart.
Mertsfield once again bounced back, some sharp skill from Kim on the right flank taking allowing him to cross to Zimmerman whose volley has smartly saved by Exeter’s keeper Rupert Therlowe.
However, Exeter ended the first half in the same manner that they began it. Exeter’s Brocklesby received the ball on the left side of the box, his first shot was blocked by Hunter’s arm, with the balling falling to him again only for his second attempt to be blocked by the keeper. The subsequent appeals for handball for the initial effort was rendered superfluous as the onrushing Charles Cooper converted the rebound, sending Exeter into the break 3-1 up.
The start of the second half was no less dramatic than the start of the first. As the ball swung in from a Mertsfield corner, Exeter keeper Therlowe exchanged some innocuous push and shove with Mertsfield’s Kim, prompting the referee to award perhaps the softest penalty ever conceded in the Jcr league. Both Exeter and Mertsfield players seemed a little confused by the decision, a particularly impassioned Chris Bennett receiving a stern rebuke from the referee for his trouble. However Mertsfield captain Sam Firman kept his head to coolly convert in the bottom corner.
Chances subsequently abounded for both teams, Mertsfield sensing they could get something out of the game and Exeter desperate to put the match to bed. Platt showed a rare lack of composure when he found himself in possession twelve yard from goal: when he elected to play a miscued pass beyond his onrushing team-mate rather than claim his hat-trick. Their was similar frustration in front of goal at the other end as Zimmerman was presented with a clear opening on the left side of the box, only to volley wide.
Eventually though, the perseverance with which Mertsfield had played with all game would pay dividends. Striker Zimmerman turned creator, whipping a ball in from the right flank, evading the Exeter defence and falling to an unmarked Ben Franz at the far post who emphatically fired the ball into the bottom corner, the referee blowing for full time a moment later.
Honours even was a fair result in a game in which both teams had their fair share of chances; Franz’s last minute equaliser giving Mertsfield the point that they deserved. Even if they got a helping hand from some absurd refereeing.
After beginning my culinary quest at the unattainable All Souls College, I’ve decided this week to pick somewhere a bit closer to home. Or, to be more precise, home itself – Exeter College.
Unfortunately, food at Exeter is probably best known for the exorbitant catering charge (one grand a year, regardless of what you eat in Hall), and for charging more for a main course than a three-course Formal costs at Worcester. We have neither a Michelin-starred chef, like our friends at Trinity across the Broad (supposedly), nor have Masterchef contestants ever paid us a visit.
But we are linked to one of the most exciting counties in England from a culinary perspective, Devon. We were founded by the Bishop of Exeter in 1314, and we still lend a helping hand to several West Countrymen and women thinking of applying here.
Devon is famed around the country for its dairy produce, the result of a temperate climate and fertile soil; Devon Blue cheese won the Best English Cheese at the British Cheese Awards this year (yes, they really exist). The county is home to some of the most highly-prized lamb and beef in the country on Exmoor and Dartmoor, and produces great seafood and oysters.
The county is also home to Plymouth Gin, the country’s oldest distillery and once the most widely distributed gin in the world, and a spiffing range of ciders to rival neighbouring Somerset. And amongst all the independent farms, dairies and breweries, in the small village of Lifton, Devon produces the food of the Gods themselves at the Ambrosia factory. And if we’re honest, who wants Marks & Spencer’s crème anglaise with their apple crumble when they can have Ambrosia?
But, of course, think of Devon, and you think of the Cream Tea. Apart from tasting damn good, four simple things – scones, clotted cream, jam and tea – have become a symbol of the county, a stalwart in National Trust cafeterias up and down the United Kingdom and the cause of hundreds of years of Devon-Cornwall tensions (along with, of course, the Cornish (or Devon?) pasty).
As with all ‘simple’ food traditions, there has never been agreement over what makes the best Cream Tea. We can’t even decide how to pronounce the word scone. Should it rhyme with gone, stone, or even (in Scotland, reportedly) spoon? Apparently, two thirds of us choose the former, but I prefer to rhyme it with stone, thank you very much. And should they be plain, with raisins, with glacé cherries, with pumpkin or even with ginger beer? I think it’s safe to say we can’t expect a definitive decision on the ‘perfect scone’ any time soon.
And then there’s the matter of how to assemble the Cream Tea. Whilst the Cornish go scone-jam-clotted cream, in Devon, the clotted cream comes first, lest the scone (which must still be warm from the oven) become soggy. God forbid.
There are even arguments over the tea: some say milk is essential, while others say it makes our taste-buds less sensitive to the scones, jam and cream.
The history of the Cream Tea stretches back to 1105, when monks at the Benedictine Abbey of Tavistock began serving bread with clotted cream and jam to workers rebuilding the destroyed monastery. They were so popular that the monks started to sell them to passing travellers with the rather more luxurious scone replacing the bread.
In 2010, a campaign was launched to gain Protected Designation of Origin status for the Devon Cream Tea (held by, amongst others, the rival Cornish pasty and Cornish Clotted Cream, Stilton, Wensleydale and Jersey Royal potatoes). The global market, you see, is supposedly worth £85bn. That’s around the GDP of Slovakia and Angola. No doubt they were doing their maths after too much cider or Plymouth gin.
They haven’t yet achieved the status. But don’t feel too sorry for those Devonians: if they do, and you make a Devon Cream Tea with any component produced outside of Devon, those West Country folk will be chucking you in Dartmoor jail before you can shout ‘Sorry Janner’.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, there have been numerous attempts to create the World’s Largest Scone. In 2008, the Hallett family of Torquay created a 26kg, 60cm-diameter specimen. Their record didn’t last long; in September 2011 those dastardly Australians stole the crown with a mammoth 178kg scone. Perhaps that explains why they’re (slightly) heavier than us Brits down under.
Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with indulging once in a while, so here’s a simple recipe for scones. You probably don’t need detailed directions for cutting the scone in half and loading it with clotted cream on it, then jam, and then making a cuppa. Play around with it as you like, add what you fancy; you’re unlikely to go wrong.
- 225g self-raising flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 35g butter, cubed
- 25g golden caster sugar
- 120ml milk plus 2 extra tablespoons
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Lightly grease a baking tray.
- Mix the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the butter and rub until you have a fine breadcrumb consistency.
- Stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and add the 120ml milk. Combine with the flour mixture to form a dough, trying to handle the mixture as little as possible (work it too much, and you’ll end up with flat rock-cakes).
- Flour a surface, turn out the dough, and roll it out to a thickness of about 2cm. Use a cutter to cut scones and place them on the baking tray, leaving enough space for any lop-sided rising.
- Brush the tops of the scones with the extra milk; make sure none goes on the sides, as this will prevent rising.
- Bake for around 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Assemble your Cream Tea and enjoy while the scones are still warm!