Christ Church bans exclusive ‘P Club’ from college

The ‘P Club’, an exclusive dining club which has previously held events at Christ Church, has been banned from holding any activities on college premises.

Last June, The Oxford Student revealed that Christ Church’s then-Senior Censor Prof. Brian Young ran an exclusive dining club, the P Club, or Pythic Club. We also revealed that the college’s Development Office supported the club’s activities in publicising P Club alumni dinners.

As previously reported by The Oxford Student, the club is known to have held exclusive dinners in college. The club’s membership is selective, including both tutors and students among its members.

In response to the article, a large student meeting took place to discuss student concerns about the P Club, at which then-Junior Censor Prof. Johnson faced scrutiny from the Christ Church student body.

The Oxford Student can now reveal that allegedly, the P Club recently attempted to register with Christ Church as an official society, which would have legitimised its activities in the college.

In response, a motion was brought to a JCR committee meeting, condemning the P Club, and discouraging its registration with the college. Both parts of the motion were passed by the committee with overwhelming majorities.

Following the passing of the motion, an open letter addressed to the college’s current Junior Censor, Professor Aarts, was posted to Christ Church’s JCR Facebook group last week, signed by numerous current and former members of the college’s JCR committee. These included former and current access reps, inreach officers, members of the executive and ball committee, and a former JCR President.

In the letter, it is argued the P Club is an “intrinsically elitist institution, which undermines the college’s access, inreach, and equality objectives”, and is “inextricably linked to cultural capital”. The authors call on the Junior Censor to condemn the club’s existence and to reject any applications by the club to register “unless all aspects of secrecy, selectivity, and exclusivity are abandoned”.

According to the authors, the club’s existence “directly undermines Christ Church’s access efforts by sustaining discrimination on the basis of social class [and] neurotypicality”, and should be “consigned to the past as a historic, but not at all reputable, tradition from which Christ Church has progressed”. A reported £90 price for participation in the club’s dinners is also criticised.

It is further alleged that several students have felt uncomfortable knowing their tutors are members. One student “felt self-conscious and inferior in a two-to-one tutorial in which both the tutor and other tutee were known members of the P Club”.

The letter does, however, suggest that one acceptable form in which the P Club might register would be to allow attendees from across Christ Church to ballot for the dinners, making them open to all members of the JCR community.

The letter gained around 100 signatures from fellow members of the JCR, before being taken down after approximately two hours. The reason for the letter’s removal is unknown.

Shortly after the letter was taken down, a post in the JCR group by the Christ Church JCR President confirmed that “it has been mutually decided by the Censors and relevant parties that no application for the P Club to register will be made”.

Commenting on the post, the current JCR inreach officer, one of the letter’s initial signatories, expressed that the authors had the opportunity to meet with Junior Censor Prof. Dirk Aarts to  voice their concerns.

As a result of the P Club failing to register with the college, the club are banned from meeting on Christ Church premises under the college’s own rules.

When approached by The Oxford Student, three of the open letter’s authors – Inreach Officer Eleri Harry, former JCR President Joseph Grehan-Bradley, and Ball Committee member Milly Lynch – said:

“Along with many of our peers, we have always had deep concerns about the exclusive and discriminatory nature of the P Club. Had it been allowed to register, it would have simply been able to continue these practices under official college auspices.

“As such, we are absolutely delighted that the P Club has been banned from meeting on college premises, and that the ties between college and club have been decisively severed. If the club, in these circumstances, chooses to go underground and meet off-site, they would vindicate the student body’s views about its fundamental objectives, nature and bad faith.

“We were very pleased that we were able to give voice to opinions about the club which are held by so many members of our college. We would also like to express our gratitude to the censors, who showed much thoughtfulness and dedication in listening to our concerns.

“Above all, we hope that what we have achieved confirms to all prospective applicants that Christ Church that there is a place for them here.”

When contacted for comment by The Oxford Student, Christ Church stated that “Since 2017, Christ Church has required all clubs and societies using the College’s name or facilities to be formally registered and approved by the Censors. Registration requires clubs and societies to abide by all College regulations and policies, including those related to equality and diversity.”

Image credit: Christ Church Quad