Sub fusc here to stay, suggests student poll

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Almost 70  percent of Oxford students plan to vote in favour of keeping sub fusc compulsory, a poll conducted by The Oxford Student suggests.

The results, extrapolated from 578 responses to a survey into students’ voting habits, show significant support for the traditional academic uniform, with just 22 percent saying they will vote to make sub fusc non-compulsory.

A referendum on whether to keep sub fusc compulsory was proposed by James Blythe, OUSU’s Vice President for Access and Academic Affairs, at the end of last term., and later confirmed by OUSU Council. The vote will be held on Wednesday to Friday of 4th Week.

Results of the poll have also revealed that women and men are almost exactly equally as likely to vote in favour of the motion, while around 10 percent of students overall do not plan to vote in the referendum.

Parallel campaigns ‘Subfusc OFF’ and ‘Save Subfusc’ have been running on social media since the referendum’s announcement. ‘Subfusc OFF’ currently has 287 Facebook likes, whereas ‘Save Subfusc’ has 2,444.

Founder of the ‘Save Subfusc’ campaign, first year Univ student Harrison Edmonds, said: “This poll shows that many students value the benefits that wearing sub fusc can have on exams, whether it be improving concentration by helping students focus and get in the right mindset, or the boost in self-esteem that can come from everyone wearing the same clothing or even the confidence that can come from feeling part of a centuries old tradition. I hope that the referendum result will reflect this widespread support for keeping  sub fusc compulsory for exams.”

However, not all students have echoed Edmond’s views.

One member of the Sub Fusc Off group told The OxStu: “It’s very important to me that I be as comfortable as possible during the eight three-hour sessions that determine my degree. I don’t much care what people hundreds of years ago wore, or what the people around me are wearing.

“All that’s important is my own state of mind and the paper in front of me, and the University shouldn’t have the right to make me less comfortable than I’d like to be.”

According to a statement made by James Blythe on the OUSU website, the referendum was called following the presentation of a paper on behalf of a group of students to the Exams Panel of Education Committee, asking the discontination of compulsory sub fusc.

In an earlier statement to The Oxford Student, Blythe stated: “I myself can see both positives and negatives of sub fusc and don’t intend to lead either campaign. I hope many people will come forward to articulate the passionate views on both sides of this debate that I have heard from students. I have certainly not proposed this referendum because I want to abolish it, but just so that OUSU can represent accurately the student view.”

In the full referendum, students will be able to choose whether they would prefer to have compulsory full sub-fusc, gowns over casual clothes, smart clothes, or casual dress as examination wear.

While the student poll indicates a strong sway in favour of compulsory sub fusc, the figure of 70% support remains lower than at the last referendum in 2006, when 81% of students voted to retain full sub fusc during exams.

Oxford is one of few universities globally to make students wear formal academic dress for exams, with sub fusc in Cambridge optional for students.

The sub-fusc referendum will be held on Wednesday to Friday of 4th week.

PHOTO: Skittledog

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