Somerville ‘dirty protest’ hits international news

College News News

A ‘dirty protest’ staged in the bathrooms of Somerville College bar – which had recently been made gender-neutral – has attracted international attention.

The story, first reported by Cherwell on Sunday, has been picked up by outlets as diverse as The Times, Business Standard, and Odisha TV, a regional Indian television network.

The words “We want our f****** urinals back” had been written on a cubicle door and a pool of urine had been left nearby.

A second-year Somerville undergraduate told The Oxford Student: “I’m sure the Oxford India Centre attached to Somerville is proud of all this publicity.”

The day after the event occured (Friday the 4th) two emails – one from the JCR President Niall Macklin and the other from the decanal team – were sent out to college members.

The email from the Deans, seen by The Oxford Student, described the “vandalism” and “inflammatory message” as a “serious incident”.

It urged anyone with information to speak to the Dean, and emphasised that: “Somerville prides itself on being an inclusive College and we expect all of our members to treat each other and the College with dignity and respect.”

Macklin’s message read: “This morning I had an email from the Treasurer concerning an incident in the Terrace last night. Someone took it upon themselves to urinate on the floor of one of the cubicles and inscribe ‘we want our f*cking urinals back.’

“If you have a problem with the changes please use the wonderful democratic process that is the JCR general meeting and not dirty protests.

“Otherwise, if you could refrain from being a barbaric idiot that would be great xoxo”

Somerville voted to replace its male and female toilet signs with gender neutral ones in January. The motion passed overwhelmingly with 83 votes for, 16 against, and 8 abstentions.

A Somerville historian told The Oxford Student: “College should have consulted the JCR before removing the urinals, rather than just charging ahead and doing it with little thought as to the consequences of doing so.

“Maybe something for college to think about if/when they decide to turn the toilets under the dining hall unisex as well.”