“Communist ball” candidate goes down in electoral defeat

A candidate for Ball President at Balliol College who launched a tongue-in-cheek ‘communist’ manifesto suffered electoral defeat this week.

PPE student Xavier Cohen pledged to stage a ‘jokes ball’ following a Communist Revolution, and stood for the position in an attempt to argue that Oxford’s tradition of hosting balls, which Balliol observes annually, has strongly elitist features.

In a satirical attack on Oxford University culture, the manifesto promised to hold a ‘Bourgeois Balliol Ball’ to imitate how people of the past came together to have fun. It stated that: “We’re people from the past who endorse modes of enjoyment that not only (A) yield their characteristic attractiveness from their elevated position within a cultural and material hierarchy that grants some millions and social worth and denies others human life on the same basis of sheer luck (or other morally arbitrary factors), but also (B) instantiate this hierarchy in the social relations between attendees, workers, and onlookers, and (C) reproduce the ideological hegemony of this hierarchy.”

The election for the position was won by Abi Williams with 73 votes, with Cohen gaining 30 votes out of the 110 cast. The vote has triggered a wider debate about whether student approval should be required before colleges organise such events.

Commenting on the content of the manifesto, Cohen stated: “I ran for ball president because I think there are quite a few ways in which balls are bad, and I find it frustrating that the JCR just assumes that we’ll have one without a vote. Not so long ago, Balliol JCR didn’t hold balls on political grounds, and held a much less fancy ‘event’ instead.”

There will now be a motion at the next Balliol JCR general meeting, that aims to bring about a mechanism for students to express their support or opposition to hosting a ball in future years, with Cohen personally favouring an event that is “cheaper and less elite” as Balliol’s principle social event of the year.

Photo: Oliver Robinson