Why student newspapers in Oxford should watch what they publish
Last week this newspaper published an article on the actions of Christ Church students at their annual ‘Mister and Misses’ competition. It shouldn’t have.
The Oxford Student has only one readership that matters- Oxford students. The same goes for The Cherwell. The article- and others like it- are not in the interest of that demographic. Stories about the debauched and out of touch behaviour of Oxford students get remarkable traction in the national press. The events at Christ Church, for example, reappeared in the Daily Mail only a day after being published in The Oxford Student. The Mail’s branding of the university as ‘a hotbed of misogyny’ is exactly what its readers want to hear- and what ours don’t. There is no reason that we should be serving the prurient national desire for stories about our depravity. Doing so leads to a public dislike for the university, and- more importantly- dissuades potential applicants.
This may seem like an exaggeration, but it is not. Last week alone, another article about Oxbridge debauchery appeared in numerous national publications. The ‘news’ that Oxbridge students purchased more sex toys than any other university was reported not only in The Mail, but also in The Metro and The Telegraph.
Though an article entitled ‘Work hard, play hardest’ may seem like good publicity, it is anything but. The national press’ bizarre overindulgence in student sex life is beyond unhealthy. Oxford University is not the next Jersey Shore, and should not allow itself to be seen as such. More worrying, though, is the implication of decadence in the article. The Daily Mail used terms like ‘splashed out’, while every paper stressed Oxford students’ preference for ‘luxury’ goods. Again, this article- which stemmed from a student publication- is perpetuating harmful stereotypes of the university. These stereotypes ensure that those with elitist, sexist, and bigoted views feel welcome to apply, and those without do not.
Every few weeks an article (that has these sorts of themes in) will come out in this paper or The Cherwell. Whether blacking up at St. Hugh’s, or hiring a shark for the Somerville Ball, all of these actions are plainly wrong. They are also in no way indicative of the university in general. Bigotry, sexism, and elitism must be fought at every turn.
However, by publishing these articles students newspapers are not only indulging national voyeurism, but the perpetrators themselves. In almost every instance, the articles report that colleges have dealt with, or are dealing with the matter. In other words, sexism and bigotry are being tackled. Publicising the actions of individuals only serves to make them more visible than the rest of the student body. As a result, Oxford becomes known internally and externally as- to quote my favourite paper- ‘a hotbed of misogyny’.
With the national media becoming increasingly voyeuristic, student publications in Oxford have more reason than ever to be vigilant. The OxStu’s name is indicative of those it represents, and its editors should be wary of that. By perpetuating ideas of Oxford as sexist, bigoted, and elitist, this paper is dissuading applicants, and ensuring that its student body is what it had hoped to denounce. Ignoring the vile actions of a minority of students, though bad for business, is the only proper course.