Corpus Christi JCR has reacted with outrage after members of an all-male, black-tie drinking society tore down LGBTQ pride flags from the JCR wall and placed them in a fridge on Saturday evening.
The Abbotts, a previously ‘secret’ drinking society consisting mostly of former public school boys, has been accused of “offensive” and “unacceptable” behaviour after removing the flags, following an evening of alcohol-fuelled initiations for new members. Individual members of the society have removed rainbow flags from the JCR wall on at least one previous occasion.
A motion to condemn the individuals involved passed with overwhelming support in Sunday evening’s JCR meeting. The JCR also allocated £75 for the purchase of new rainbow flags, and earmarked one third of this year’s £3,000 charities budget for LGBTQ-related charities. The JCR motion described the club’s actions as “an unacceptable way to tell us to get back in the closet”.
The Oxford Student understands that only privately educated males with right-wing political views are traditionally invited into The Abbotts, though this rule is not always strictly maintained.
The society is informally led by students who have already graduated from Oxford, but routinely return in order to initiate new members at alcohol-fuelled, black-tie events. At least one of the club’s graduate leaders is currently employed in a high-status business position.
The Abbotts has avoided making a public apology to the JCR, and also declined to apologise when approached for comment by The Oxford Student.
Corpus Christi JCR President Bethany Currie condemned the Club’s actions as “unacceptable”.
“Corpus is committed to making its JCR an inclusive one. Corpus JCR is a place where absolutely everybody should feel comfortable, welcome and safe. This ethos is not up for debate. The events of Saturday night have been condemned by the rest of the JCR and the actions taken in in the JCR meeting on Sunday are indicative of the overwhelming majority of the JCR’s stance on the matter.”
Currie continued: “I don’t care if it was meant as a joke, I don’t care if it wasn’t meant to cause offence: it is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our JCR.”
A similar sentiment was shared by OUSU LGBTQ Officer Jenny Walker, who described the club’s actions as “highly offensive”.
“For a student society or group to tear down pride flags is not only incredibly childish,” Walker commented, “it is also highly offensive and demonstrates a clear insensitivity to the identities and values of other students.”
Walker continued: “The reaction of the JCR members in support of LGBTQ identifying students is, however, a heartening sign that the vast majority of students at Oxford will not tolerate such behaviour in their University.”
The issue of LGBTQ pride flags has prompted controversy around the University in recent weeks, with numerous Brasenose College students displaying pride flags in their windows to protest the College’s refusal to fly the flag during LGBTQ History Month.
In Michaelmas 2013, a drinking society at St Hugh’s was criticised after organising a ‘fox hunt’ event, in which male members planned to pick a female fresher whom they would chase through the streets of Oxford.