Thought I’d post about why I am writing this under the title of ‘Anonymous’, but before I do, my congratulations to anyone who got the hilarious 13th Century Motet pun in the title there. Even if I don’t write anything after this it was worth it.
Although everyone enjoys cooking up an air of mystical mystery and magic from time to time, this is not the reason for my anonymous posting. The two word reason is as follows: Daily Mail. As you may be aware, the press have a certain fascination with Oxford and Cambridge. Although I was aware of this before I came to Oxford, I hadn’t quite realised the extent to which it was significant. I have already been filmed once by a news crew and my college alone has been in the papers countless times, never mind the university as a whole. So one of the key reasons is that I basically don’t want to be misquoted by any of the potential offenders.
A little more on this, it seems that if a paper catch an Oxford student saying something or writing something online about a night out and having a few drinks, it can quite easily be portrayed as something like ‘Oxford students glorify binge drinking culture’ and so on. This may not seem like a bit deal, but this is partially because I have used a small scale example. The reason why it is so irritating is twofold. Firstly, all sorts of inappropriate and debaucherous behaviour doubtless takes place at most universities but because it takes place at Oxford, it is massively amplified and portrayed as something much more significant and outrageous. Secondly it is damaging for prospective applicants. When stories of ugly and wasteful behaviour circulate in the media, it is quite clearly going to deter intelligent, enthusiastic and passionate individuals from applying. Although one would hope that it would be possible for such people to look deeper into the story, if no one from your family, school, even village or town has been to Oxford, these kind of myths might be your only images of Oxford. And clearly they are somewhat disturbing. This is one reason why I am particularly passionate about access projects and ‘outreach’ work. Although the terminology may sound patronising and it is tempting to be drawn into cynicism about quotas etc, the intentions really are good. This was the motivation for the #OxTweet project on twitter, giving prospective applicants a genuine everyday look at the relative normality of life at Oxford.
Furthermore, it is always the negative news which reaches the press. We’ve heard about the Bullingdon Club (think that is how it is spelt, genuinely not sure and also genuinely can’t be bothered to google it) burning £50 notes in front of homeless people. I believe this is a group of about twelve boys, who are quite obviously not representative of an undergraduate population of c.11700. What hasn’t reached the press is the astounding quantity of charity work and volunteering which the students at the university organise and participate in. I honestly can’t imagine that university student body anywhere in the world compares. A few examples from the top of my head include taking young carers on excursions, running weekly clubs for disabled children and giving tutoring to young homeless people. These are a few examples, and if you want more I shall provide them! Personally I always walk around Oxford with chocolate bars in my handbag to give to homeless people instead of money (or burning it in front of them…) and I know that I am far from unique.
Although I have deviated slightly by going into the issues of media representation of Oxford, hopefully I have explained why I’m writing anonymously! I simply don’t trust the press not to be tempted to dig one phrase I write, put it out of context and smack my name on it. I’m working precisely against that and to portray a different, possibly not as exciting, image of what being at Oxford is like. Clearly it is not at all perfect, but the exaggeration in the media or at least selective covering of events is so damaging for increasing diversity here, and I want to distance myself from any possible chances of being used in this misrepresentation.