Some students from Oxford University have said they want to ban the “discriminatory” graduation scholars’ gowns. So far there are 1,200 votes for the ban, and 2,000 against it. The final vote will be in October, when a final decision will be reached.
The Students’ Call
Some students from Oxford University have claimed that they find graduation scholars’ gowns to be “a form of discrimination,” and have called for a ban on them. The regular gowns worn by most students are short-sleeved, whereas the “prestigious “scholars’ gowns,” for students with exemplary academic records and have been given scholarships, are much longer and have longer sleeves. They are also usually worn before taking exams, which some students claim is unnecessarily intimidating.
“The hierarchical gown structure is fundamentally in conflict with ideals of community and equality,” students said in the university’s newspaper “Cherwell.”
The group claim that the gowns make them feel “nervous” and academically inferior. They particularly highlight the fact that these gowns are usually given to men, particularly in “STEM subjects.”
“I walk into the tent and it’s all the boys wearing the gowns. I already feel inferior being a girl here, let alone a woman of colour, and to just be reminded of every alienating feeling while standing in the tent is the most disheartening thing before an exam.” said one student.
So far there have been a total of 1,200 votes calling to ban the robes, and 2000 votes that oppose the ban. The final vote will be in October, when a decision will be reached.
Criticism of the Call
Many students have also criticized this call, saying that the outrage “reeks of envy” rather than “any real desire for reform.”
Thomas Munro, an undergraduate at the university argued that Oxford is only responsible for providing “equality of opportunity” and not “equality of outcome.” He also pointed out that students are given the opportunity to earn these gowns at several points throughout their programs.
“Scholars’ gowns are a symbol of this meritocracy, which despite some failings, nevertheless succeeds to a great extent in rewarding achievement,” he said.
Anna Lukina, a law student at the university, also wrote a blog post opposing the ban, saying: “Oxford [is] a place built on academic excellence — shunning rewarding it here seems absurd, especially since most current students have been accepted to this university by virtue of performing better than their peers.”
“The cost of gowns and disparities between different colleges in terms of scholarships/exhibitions are easier to address and will arguably make more positive impact.”