Queen’s JCR sanctions new membership rules for dining societies

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Queen’s College JCR have passed a motion 36 votes to 23 mandating several exclusive dining societies to change their rules of membership.

This motion was put forward after the clubs, which are not considered “official” college societies, were pressured to do more in order to promote social inclusion.

After several amendments to the original motion, Queen’s JCR voted that three dining societies, ‘Reginae’, ‘Eaglets’ and ‘Halcyon’, would have to change their selection and membership processes in order to make it less exclusive.

From now on, the dining societies, which organise at least three meals a year for members, are pressured to employ an open or balloted membership, accepting members based solely on objective criteria. While proponents of the motion accused the dining societies of unnecessary exclusivity, opponents defended the societies as a key part of Oxford tradition and innocent from any systematic exclusion.

Currently these societies are run as “private organisations”, albeit by and for Queen’s College students. Students are first nominated by current members before undergoing a selection process. Those opposed to the motion argued that as private organisations, they reserve the same rights as any other external organisation, free to choose their own rules  and terms of membership.

Now that they have been mandated to conform to decanal standards, it is unclear whether or not the clubs will have to be considered official college societies.

One Queen’s College student told the OxStu: “These are essentially private groups of people exercising their right to associate freely, who book rooms in college in the same way that anyone else does.”

“If the JCR wants to lobby college to make it that any private function must have open balloted membership, or membership based on objective criteria, then at least that way they would be consistent in their approach.”

Further consternation was caused in the JCR meeting due to an unorthodox method of voting for and against the motion. The JCR elected to ‘vote by division’ – with proponents standing at one end of the room, and opponents at the other. Some students voiced unease at being unable to remain anonymous in their votes. The future of the motion is unclear given that the voting method is not fully in line with the JCR constitution.

While the future is uncertain for these exclusive clubs, a spokesperson for one of the dining societies, going by the pseudonym “Rigolicious” channelled the words of Ed Miliband, and told the Queen’s JCR: “after this division, I urge both sides to put aside the rhetoric and stop it happening again. These condemnations are wrong at a time when negotiations are still going on.”

Photo/Queen’s College JCR