Merton fails to show at its own games VERSA

Dispatches from the front last weekend saw the climactic conclusion of the infamous Merton-Christchurch war in the form of the Merton Street Charity Games 2016. With its roots in the first ever recorded attempt at banter from the place where ‘fun goes to die’, the ‘war’ spread from college to college as old tensions and rivalries exploded into outright conflict.

JCR after JCR weighed in on either side, pitting old adversaries such as St Catz and Magdalen against each other. Seeking to find a resolution, the two camps hurriedly met in secret negotiations, eventually settling upon a charity sports contest to decide who would be the victor. The ‘war’ was to be resolved through the ancient martial contests of netball, football and ultimate frisbee, and it was decided that each person entering would make a donation of £3 to War Child. War Child seemed appropriate for this ‘war’ due to its nature as a charity helping children affected by actual war.

The stage was set as teams from Christchurch, St Catz and Harris Manchester arrived at Merton Sports Grounds and prepared for battle. Yet Merton and their allies were nowhere to be seen… except, presumably, in a pile of textbooks. Not only did this mean that they were unable to take part in the games held on their sports ground and in their name, but that, as of the time of writing, they had not made any donations to War Child.

The teams which did turn up valiantly carried on however, and it was a good day of sport which raised £200 for a worthy cause. The Wildcats won the netball, the Cheepy Shunts took the football and the Democratic People’s Republic of Catz Ultimate Frisbee stormed to victory in the frisbee.

It’s a pity Merton couldn’t get out of the library really….

VERSA | St Hugh’s hampered by bad losers at #VeggiePledge

It explains why #VeggiePledge was so popular, where you could declare to the Oxford student body how “vegetarian” you were willing to become, even if definitions of vegetarian ranged from “strict vegan” to “only eating chicken and fish”. (After all, pizza is considered a vegetable by the US Congress.)

St Hugh’s ended up as the winner, forming part of their larger plan to dominate 2016. First, producing a prime minister hellbent on destroying Britain’s global standing. Now, winning this by a whopping 282 pledges. To be fair, they did manage to overcome the well-practised Wadham technique of barraging the campaign on the last day. And so, St Hugh’s would be paid handsomely for their victory with two hampers of vegetarian goodies.

Not that Wadham was going to take this defeat lying down. This message popped up on the St Hugh’s JCR Facebook group soon after the college was declared victorious:

Indeed, the president continued this argument then stated in the comments:

£80 to feed over 500 JCR members? What do you mean you’re still hungry? Nor could the food be given to charity despite many suggestions, according to OUSU. The role of basket case was thus reserved for Wadham.

“The St Hugh’s iguana is threatened by the vicious Wadham snakes…” [click to see GIF]

So despite numerous objections, it was decided by online survey – very democracy – that we should hold a welfare tea (yawn) with Wadham using the food from the hamper. Because St Hugh’s are just so nice, and such a lack of consideration towards our dear idols friends at Wadham would leave such an indelible mark upon the college.

One wonders whether Wadham would return the gesture. 

Tags: hampers — OUSU — Oxford — snakes — st hugh’s — veggie pledge — Wadham

VERSA | CRAE Co-Chair criticised slammed for anti-Semitic tweet

This summer, political debate has often centred on anti-Semitism in the British left. Debate has been exacerbated following concerns about Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn’s connections to Holocaust denier Paul Eisen, and other alleged anti-Semites. Jewish groups have also been warning of an increasing atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the UK and across Europe as a whole. Oxford itself has seen some of the left accused of tolerating anti-Jewish sentiment, particularly on the Facebook group “Skin Deep”, which is seen by many as the go-to place to discuss race-based issues for many students. 

Earlier this week, VERSA was alerted to an allegedly anti-Semitic tweet by the Co-Chair of OUSU’s CRAE and Corpus Christi JCR BME officer, Kiran Benipal. The tweet, seen in full below, was a response to a joke – which was not penned by Benipal and has since been deleted. 

The orignial Tweet, due to Twitter’s layout we didn’t have the full quoted Tweet

Benipal gave VERSA a screenshot of the full quoted Tweet

Upon becoming aware of the tweet, a representative of JSoc (Oxford’s Jewish Society) issued the following statement:

“Oxford JSoc condemns this blatant anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms. At a time of rising anti-Semitism in the UK, it is shocking that a so-called Equality Officer in our own student union and in her college JCR would deem it acceptable to trivialise such discrimination in a public forum. We hope for a public apology and call on the relevant bodies to reassess her ability to represent students in light of these views.”

VERSA was also pointed to the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)’s formal definition of anti-Semitism, which includes the following passage: “Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

Benipal, along with co-chair Hetal Jani, is set to lead CRAE in Michaelmas 2015. According to OUSU’s website, part of CRAE’s role is to facilitate training and workshops regarding “equality and sensitivity”, and “diversity and difference”.

When contacted by VERSA, Benipal apologised for the tweet: “I apologise unreservedly for this tweet. Belittling anti-Semitism is never acceptable, so I profoundly regret what I wrote in the heat of an argument. I was replying to another tweet, which I attach here. I was rejecting the common racist claim that Muslims are uniquely intolerant of offensive comments.  It was inappropriate to instrumentalise the threat that anti-Semitism poses to the lives of Jewish people in order to make my point. This I fully accept and deeply apologise for,

She elaborated “I fully accept that it is neither helpful nor acceptable to try to address the liberation of one group by cementing the oppression of another. My tweet was flippant, thoughtless and inappropriate. This is a time of rising anti-Semitism in the UK, and anti-Semitism should never be trivialised or ignored. My tweet was intended to address pervasive Islamophobia, not to trivialise anti-Semitism. I am sorry that in attempting the former, I also became guilty of the latter.”

Much of the controversy surrounding anti-Semitism in Oxford had been centred on race issue discussion group Skin Deep, where commenters have at times been accused of blurring the lines between Israeli and Jewish identities. An administrator, Barnaby Raine, was appointed to look out for anti-Jewish sentiment. When contacted for comment, Raine said:

“Most students at Oxford abhor anti-Semitism and will be disturbed by these comments. I find them patently offensive. I hope Kiran Benipal apologises properly. If she fails to do so, JSoc are right that her position has to be questioned. 

Unfortunately these comments point to a deeper problem of mistrust between the student Left and some Jewish students, rooted in strong disagreements about Israel. As a Jewish student and a proud supporter of the Palestinian people, I hope we can resolve that mutual mistrust in the future. We should all be clear that Zionism and Jewishness are distinct, and opposition to the former need never imply hostility to the latter.”

Ali Lennon, OUSU VP for Welfare & Equal Opportunities gave a comment in a personal capacity when contacted,

“The tweet by the Co-Chair of the Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality, Kiran Benipal, concerning Jewish people was wholly inappropriate and should not have been made. Kiran has been given guidance on this matter and I am very glad that she has retracted the tweet and provided an unequivocal apology. If any students feel affected by this issue I would encourage them to get in touch with the Student Advice Service who will be able to assist them”

VERSA hopes this apology will encourage more co-operation across liberation groups in fighting anti-Semitism in Oxford.

VERSA | Oxford Union to issue THIRD apology over cocktail cock-up

After the comprehensive idiocy of May 28th, the Oxford Union issued two public apologies for the scandal, and went so far as to decry itself publicly as “institutionally racist”. (That’ll encourage so many minorities, guys.)

But, in a new development to the saga of collective hand-wringing, VERSA can reveal that the Union is today expected to publish the following “commitment to action”.

Full text of the apology and commitment to action:

“On Thursday 28th May 2015 a racist cocktail was produced in the members’ bar. Both the cocktail itself and the surrounding publicity materials were racist, and the Standing Committee would like to apologise to all members and members of the public for this. The Standing Committee recognises that this incident is reflective of institutional racism within the Oxford Union Society and wider society as a whole. The Standing Committee’s initial response to this was wholly inadequate, failing to take account of the racist nature of the cocktail, and we apologise for this.

Following the treatment of the ex-BME Officer, a full apology has been issued to the ex-BME Officer by the President. The Standing Committee has failed to take sufficient account of the voices of members and committee members from marginalised groups – and in particular those people of colour – in their response to this.

The Standing Committee commits to eradicating racism and addressing the issues of institutional racism that it has recognised. The Standing Committee recognises that racism exists in society, that racism exists in the University of Oxford and that racism exists in the Oxford Union Society. This is a pernicious problem. However, the wider problems are not an excuse, and the Standing Committee commits to doing the following:

In the short term, to having oversight over the creation of debate cocktails and strengthening the mandate of the liberation officers, including giving the liberation officers full speaking rights at the meetings of the Standing Committee.

In the long term, the Standing Committee commits to hosting mandatory race and anti-racism workshops as part of committee induction for all of committee, and instituting a full consultative process to move forward.

With these commitments we join the pre-existing movement to address the pernicious problem of racism.

We thank all the individuals and also the following societies for their support in addressing the issues:

Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality

Oxford African and Caribbean Society

Oxford Black Students Union

Oxford Pan African Forum

Oxford revolutionary socialism in the 21st century

Oxford Students’ Arab Cultural Society

Oxford University Africa Society

Oxford University Majlis Asian Society

Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford”

VERSA, whilst sympathetic, does not necessarily echo the Union’s gratitude to “Oxford revolutionary socialism in the 21st century”.

VERSA | NUS’ motion against gay men’s reps is out of touch and wrong

Utterly detached from the needs of the students it claims to represent and mired in the intellectually spurious and authoritarian ideology that pervades the far-left, the NUS has called for the abolition of gay men’s reps in LGBTQ societies. It also affirms the NUS’ commitment to banning ideas it dislikes through a no-platform policy.

These decisions, made at the NUS LGBTQ Conference, will do little to assuage worries that the Student Union is anything other than a catwalk for the moral narcissism of Britain’s student radicals.

Amendment 408 resolved to “encourage LGBT+ Societies that have a gay men’s rep to drop the position” as they do not face oppression within LGBT+ communities, arguing that rep positions should be reserved for groups that “disproportionately face oppression within the LGBT+ community”.  It states that “Misogyny, transphobia, racism and biphobia are often present in LGBT+ societies. This is unfortunately more likely to occur when the society is dominated by white cis gay men”. Unsurprisingly, the decision has drawn the ire of many within the LGBTQ community, on two counts.

Firstly, it fails to acknowledge the role of LGBTQ societies as sources of representation, advice and inclusion. Harry Samuels, an NUS delegate who attended the conference, expressed his despair, writing that the amendment seems to imply that “LGBTQ societies are solely for the purpose of radical political liberation”, and questioned “how is it defensible that you get rid of someone to turn to for gay guys when they want specific sexual or sexual health advice? Or someone to talk to? Gay men don’t just simply not have these problems”. Second, it seems to ignore the grim reality that many gay men do not grow up in tolerant communities and obscures the fact that homophobia against gay men is still widespread. Samuels noted that it is a “desperately harmful thing to not just do away with a recognisable, contactable figure on a society website who can help with these things, but to imply that these problems are somehow lesser because you are a gay man.”

This rather depressing episode of the Oppression Olympics was followed up by a confused restatement of the NUS’ no-platform policy. The usual frenzied assertions as to how academic debate is inimical to the participation of students in campus life or how permitting the discussion of certain ideas constitutes oppression in itself were accompanied by an exposition of more sinister authoritarianism within the Left. As well as trying to control and regulate what issues can be discussed, they seek to change the very terms in which we discuss them in order to guarantee certain pre-ordained ideological conclusions. Two statements are particularly egregious.

The first is the bizarre and incorrect assertion that “No platforming is not censorship”. This appears to be another case in the radical left’s trend of redefining words to suit its own ideological and rhetorical requirements. Student unions clearly lack the capacity for universal repression of ideas in the way that authoritarian governments do – they lack the means of enforcement and apparatus of control to completely suppress free speech. However, no-platforming undeniably prevents the discussion of certain ideas within student societies through the threat of disruption or the outright banning of certain societies, and regularly attempts to ostracise and morally castigate those who hold ideas that do not conform to the moral pretensions of our student leaders. The former definition represents an absurdly narrow and un-nuanced understanding of what ‘censorship’ is. The latter, despite its rhetorical inconvenience for our comrades on the far-left, is a much more meaningful account of what it is for us to have free speech. Even by NUS standards, this is a particularly intellectually sloppy attempt to absolve them of their guilty intolerance.

The second particularly detestable statement is that no platforming is a decision that student unions should “feel free to make on ideological and welfare-based grounds”. This is a step-up from the already loathsome idea that the subjective feelings of individuals are sufficient to trump the universal rights of many. Asserting that no-platforming can be justified on exclusively ideological grounds is an undisguised attempt to enforce ideological purity and entrench the prevailing ideas of the Left. Even once revered liberation activists such as Germaine Greer or Peter Tatchell have been smashed by the hammer of dogma, as the student Left begins to consume itself in pursuit of ideological dominance and the sweet nectar of moral validation that this provides.

This is yet more evidence that the NUS is hopelessly out of touch with its core purposes and the needs of those it is meant to support, as well as being increasingly dominated by insidiously authoritarian ideology.

Tags: lgbt — no-platforming — NUS — Oxford — radical left

VERSA | VERSA interviews Sam Collier, Oxford cox in The Boat Race 2016

Quoi? – you may well ask, as your faithful writer did to Sam Collier, cox for this year’s Oxford men’s crew in an interview with VERSA earlier this week. Sam, studying Engineering Science at New College, weighing 56.2 kg and measuring a height of 170 cm (according to the web) kept his answers short. Nevertheless, as all coxes know: length isn’t everything.

In order to avoid my catching a journalistic crab under the shadow of this ex. GB junior champion, we started in the shallow end: “Sam, why do you cox?” His response was enthused, and yet to the point. He explained how he started rowing several years ago, but soon discovered that he wasn’t built as a rower. Loving “the adrenaline”, however, he sought another way into the sport, he found this in coxing. This led on to a discussion about the technicalities of the race from the perspective of the cox. Sam explained that whilst the cox has to be aware of everything in the race, constantly relaying info back to the team (they are, after all, rowing backwards) his main concerns are their position in the river, and the stream direction. Essentially, not crashing.

Sam Collier, smouldering

Of course, four years ago, the boats nearly did crash into a protestor claiming that the race was elitist. On asking Sam about this, his response was fiery. He explained how, from his point of view, the race stands for “the pinnacle of amateur rowing, and possibly of amateur sport as a whole”; that the race is less about the universities, and more about “competitive sport it its noblest and most brutal form.”

Heart pounding, theme to ‘Chariots of Fire’ racing through my mind, I asked another tentative question: “What do you think about the race being on Easter Sunday?” Again, all oars out, Sam took no prisoners. He argued, given the six months of gruelling training – or diet, in his case – early mornings and discipline that “The timing is pretty unimportant”. Verging on tears, I nodded my head profusely. Indeed rather than viewing the date as a negative, he urged spectators to see it as an added opportunity, bringing families together, and providing a fun afternoon outing.

“But surely with all the pressure, it won’t be fun for you – are you scared?” I asked, naively. Sam’s response was blunt: “No. As soon as you’re on the water, you have a job to do. You just have to get on and perform to the best of your ability.” In other words, it’s like an essay crisis, only in the middle of the Thames, and with the world press chasing behind you in a motorboat. Easy…

We wrapped up with a classic: “How do you intend to celebrate afterwards? (Given that we are, of course, going to win).” Answer: “I am going to read a book and get an early night”. Whilst I was slightly disappointed by this, expecting some sort of boozy Easter egg hunt, I was not surprised.

The Boat Race is a big event. It requires immense strength, stamina, and perseverance for all involved. In many ways it represents what an Oxford degree requires. For the time being, however, VERSA has its fingers crossed, and wishes the very best of luck to all crews racing.

Tags: blues — boat race — easter — Oxford — rowing — Sam Collier — sport

VERSA | Scrutiny report: all the drama, deception and juicy detail of BOTH Union slates

The lines have been drawn. The starting-pistols have been fired. The vaguely snide comments in CherStu have been ignored. And now we’re here to reveal all.

And the snakers gonna snake, snake, snake…

Let’s start with Stuart ‘Snakey’ Webber, sly golden-boy of the centre-right. He’s kept oddly quiet this campaign – perhaps, given his record in the Union, a wise move…

Nonetheless, for once Stu has kept his nose clean, and there’s…devastatingly little to report. Honestly: we tried. Anyone with dirt is warmly invited to step forward.

What did prove interesting was this note, found affixed to Webber’s door in Somerville:

Oh, so literary. Oh, so profound…

More on him later.

For now, let’s look at the opposition. Named VERSA’s coolest student, Zuleyka Shahin is certainly a star: she’s appeared on Big Brother, she’s made her own music video, and now she’s (famously) Head Bitch of the Coins at the estimable Oxford Union.

We can’t even deny it: the photo’s superb.

“Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there is no money”

And just for posterity, here’s that music video:

Perhaps, given the current arch-rivalry, Stuart ought to consider his own attempt at musical fame. Maybe a Bad Blood cover.

True to her pronouncements on BB, Zuleyka is certainly a diva. For one thing, her habit of swapping or sending back food at Union dinners has been raising eyebrows. Perhaps she’s just very particular. Or perhaps, as a little bird told an incredulous VERSA reporter, she really believes someone’s out to poison her…

Of course personal beliefs, however kooky they might seem, are just that. What really matters in the Union is competence (said no-one ever). So the fact that Zuleyka raised exactly £1,500 during her term as Treasurer is interesting. I mean, you know, if an extra £1.5k landed in our pockets, most of us would be pretty chuffed. The fact that her target – as disclosed to VERSA by the Union’s Bursar –  was £11,167, of which £1,500 is just 13%, doesn’t look great. But chill, it’s only 7th week, there’s still days.

We said our goal was scrutiny – and so it is. Unfortunately, someone beat us to it. Scrutiny committee absolutely devastated Zuleyka’s original long manifesto (yes, we’ve got a copy):

And her long manifesto as published on Union noticeboards, post-scrutiny?

Now. Everybody gets their manifestos diminished – some more than others, we might note – and at least some people in the Union get away with doing pretty much nothing. Not so everywhere else…

In news that sees hell freezing over, OUSU are barking up the same tree as VERSA. In this term’s report from the Scrutiny Committee, the committee announced that Zuleyka did not display “correct behaviour” for her failure to respond to their questions to her in her position as Grad Women’s Officer. Not only that, but she argued on the afternoon of the deadline that she would not be able to reply to them for another four days. In light of this, maybe VERSA should count themselves privileged that she felt she could have responded to us in 24 hours…

Now, to the juicy part. VERSA got hold of a few of Zuleyka’s slate’s WhatsApp screenshots, with the slate seemingly having bigger plans than election day. Our favourite minor hack Zac Spiro is very keen for Olivia to “crack” – not the nicest comments from NOW or NEVER’s self-appointed campaign manager (if OxStu are to be believed). Zuleyka takes pleasure in being listed first in our article about the contested election. Honey, it didn’t mean shit.

Identity politics – not one of VERSA’s favourite things. Brenda Njiru, NOW or NEVER’s Treasurer candidate would have agreed with us in March, slamming Zuleyka for her identity driven campaign for Standing Committee. Oh, how times have changed. VERSA’s screenshots show Brenda as a new convert to identity politics, and she’s even progressed to using her identity as a black woman to her advantage. All’s fair in love and Union politics war, eh?

Even her own slate has doubts about Zu’s campaign machine…

Accusations of irrationality and even mental illness were made by Zuleyka to some people who changed their minds about running on her slate in the election. VERSA has been told that more than one person was the victim of similar claims after deciding not to run. Not exactly the actions of a champion of access. Recent Union scandals have not involved intimidation, so despite our empathy with the victims, it’s nice for the Union membership to have diversity in their electoral scandals.

Moving on… Nobody is responsible for the actions of their fans. Really. But this was quite something: the NOW or NEVER Facebook page was visited by its very own ghost-troll.

In the below screenshots, ‘Rachel Jones’ is a Facebook account updated on the 9th of May. ‘Rachel Illuminati’, VERSA can reveal, is an account set up by a third party, whose suspicions ran along a similar route to our own: this all seemed a little too convenient…

Glaring transphobia and crude generalisations. Good question, Annie Teriba.

VERSA can confirm that the account is ‘fake’. Were the starkly blank profile and new profile picture not enough, the URL tells us that it was created within the last few days. Weird.

And – just like that – Rachel Illuminati’s comment disappeared.

Well, she didn’t take that lying down. Referring to the above:

To VERSA’s colossal surprise…the query has since vanished. Cui bono?

For the record, despite the obviously generic name, there’s only one Rachel Jones on Nexus. The real Rachel does Spanish and German, and she’s currently in Austria.

Of course, Zuleyka is the darling of the vocal left in Oxford, especially with the type of people Brendan O’Neill labelled ‘The Stepford Students’. So, we’d better not tell them she once claimed she was a fan of O’Neill and his magazine Spiked.

Changes to the infamous Rule 33 means candidates can use Facebook to campaign. Inevitably, half of Oxford’s inbox in 7th week consists of messages from hacks wanting votes for one thing or another…and Zuleyka is no different. Well, except that she forgot to put names in her messages, greeting potential voters as ‘XXXX’. Oops!

In amidst the rumour, the gossip, and the deceit, we didn’t know whom to believe. So VERSA asked an insider’s opinion. That’s all we can reveal, but safe to say we’re not doubting their evidence.

We pushed the issue of Zuleyka’s manifesto: “For what it’s worth, I think her slate’s pledges should be written in crayon.”

We noted that there’s a lot of sniping going around. Do people even feel safe in the Union? “Olivia Merrett has done multiple bug sweeps. She’s taken every book of the shelves in her office. She’s looked behind them all. [I’ve been told by another Union official to] ‘be careful what I say in [their office], it’s bugged.’”

Come on, seriously. Is there anything else on Stuart? “There is next to nothing on the STEP team. Meanwhile, Zuleyka is reducing the President to tears.” An angry stab at the table followed this comment. 

Actually, we lied. We did find something on Stuart’s slate. In fact…there were two things.

The first is an incredibly dubious allegation levelled at Noah, STEP’s candidate for Treasurer. He once told the bar that he was getting a drink for a speaker. It wasn’t for the speaker. It was for him. Noah, how could you?

Defending himself to VERSA, Noah said “I was parched, if my £200 membership cannot even encompass a dandelion and burdock on an arid December evening then I may as well withdraw from this election. “

The second allegation is even more damaging. Stuart wrote his manifesto for Secretary’s Committee last term, including most of the taglines. One tagline suggested at the time, since (sadly, in our opinion) left off the manifesto, was for Callum Tipple: “I’ll lick your nipple: vote Tipple.”

Stuart, that’s shocking.

VERSA can’t tell you who to vote for, and we wouldn’t if we could. But on one side you have censorship, comprehensive incompetence, and dubious identity politics. On the other, you have the most egregious pun we’ve ever seen. Do the right thing.

‘Oxlove’ Proven More Successful Than ‘E-Harmony’, ‘’ And Actually Going Outside, Study Finds VERSA

Researchers at the University of Oxford’s social sciences department have revealed that the lonely-hearts Facebook page ‘Oxlove’ is more effective in matching couples together than the algorithms of both ‘E-Harmony’ and ‘’.

Posters on Oxlove have a 120% chance of finding love on the site, with 82% of couples staying together until death they do part, the study found. More surprisingly still, scientists claim that singles had a greater chance of scoring with one Oxlove post than at 10 consecutive ‘Bridge Thursdays’; or 120 cups of coffee at ‘The Missing Bean’. On average every 10 Oxlove posts results in 150 instances of casual sex amongst the student population.

Recently the dating platform has come under scrutiny from university officials, with the Vice Chancellor attributing the marked rise in student pregnancies to increased use of the page. Tutors have also voiced their dismay, with one Magdalen don commenting, “The students were easier to teach when they were miserable and horny”.

Tags: dating — lifestyle — oxlove — romance

VERSA Summer: An Etymology of the Word ‘long’

‘Long’ – it’s an interesting word, isn’t it? When my tutor first mentioned the ‘long vac’ I nodded my shrivelled post-Prelim brain naively and imagined scenes of ‘summer’, ‘holiday’, and other such delightful things.

Not so…

Now, four months in, I have come to realise the full meaning of the word ‘long’. It’s a nasty word: short in syllable, **** on vowel. ‘No wonder it’s originally German’, I thought, googling ‘etymology’ (another nasty word) – perhaps giving you an idea of the kind of summer that I’ve had…

So, rather than whine about my own holiday, I’m going to bitch about everyone else’s. And, starting 2nd year as I finished 1st, why not steal everyone else’s work in the process?

1.You start the vac on a high, greeting parents with an indifferent smile and vague sense of elitism:

Love me

2. All sense of triumph is lost with the inevitable family reunion:

Note the bull.

3. In order to escape said family, you go travelling –  preferably edgily – leaving a trail of noir photographs on social media for your friends to lap up:

Somewhere in Peru…

4. On edgy trip you may even start a ‘summer romance’ (etymology: Mean Girls). You think it’ll look something like this:

Aren’t we cute

5. Inevitably, it doesn’t…

^sun costume bad choice

6. Several attempts at a novel failed, $$$ gone, you return home and submit to honest toil

– at your cross-dressing local pub

7. Meanwhile, your best friends have all organised internships shadowing either the Queen, the Queen Mother, or Mark Carney:


8. Your arty friends are at the Fringe standing on the Royal Mile looking something like this:

9. Whilst your Christ Church friends are in Majorca:

Why are they all blonde?

10. You finally get dragged on a family holiday to Dundee where you narrowly avoid drowning in the North Sea:

(Global warming has increased shark activity around Dundee)

11. Then there are a few 21st’s – notably the one where you spectacularly misjudge the tone:

What do you mean ‘black tie’?

12. And then back to the reading list, which is really very, very long indeed…

Tags: holidays — intern — summer — vacation — work

VERSA | VERSA’s A-Z of Oxford: guide to bops, sconces & more

I don’t care about the Bursar, what’s ‘Bop’? Don’t define OUP, who’s OMB?  Don’t tell me about the SCR, what’s  ‘Sconcing’?

Incoming Freshers, forget about the University of Oxford’s official Glossary and turn to VERSA’s A-Z, for a need-to-know guide on student life in Ox.


One of the finest museums in the world, brimming with fascinating artefacts and magnificent works of art… What a shame your time at Oxford will probably go by without even one visit. The crew-dating (see C below) haven of Arzoo will see you far more than the poor old Ashmo.


The iconic Bodleian, one of the oldest libraries in Europe, home to over 11 million items. What an honour to be permitted to peruse and borrow its fine contents, eh?

Alas, the initial novelty of entering the RadCam will soon wear off, and you’ll come to dread the moment when most of your reading list lies not in your college library or online, but on the Bod’s shelves. Confined books and the Gladstone Link (see G), it’s a no from me.


This guy’s Bop game is strong.

Essentially a Year 9 disco + vodka. Fancy dress optional. Heavy pre-drinking, advisable necessary.


A welcome-back treat upon returning to Ox. An attempt to test your knowledge of last term’s modules/your ability to look at last year’s exam paper and prep essay plans.


A far more important part of your Oxford experience than the former. A rendevous of two societies or sports teams at a restaurant (probs Arzoo) to enjoy good food, sip fine wine, and make sparkling conversation with your new acquaintances, all rounded off by a nightcap at the college bar. Okay, keep the first bit, but substitute in overpriced curry, the downing of Tesco £2.99 white wine following avid pennying, the revelation of one’s companions’ vulgar escapades via sconcing (see S), and an ill-advised trip to Bridge for yet more boozing. Jolly good fun.

VERSA Tip – We recommend Wok ‘n Roll, a little Chinese restaurant we’ve had some crackin’ crewdates at.


The Fellow in College in charge of disciplining the students. Try not to get ‘deaned’ for being too drunk and disorderly.

Eights Week

A week of sun, BBQs and egregious quantities of alcohol… Oh, and a bit of rowing. No need for non-rowers to be clued up on the rules or the lingo – who cares who ‘bumped’ Magdalen, just pour me another Pimm’s.

Fifth Week Blues

With 4 weeks done, and 4 weeks to go, those eternal lab hours or never-ending readings lists might be getting you down. Oh well, have a drink, try and forget about the 9am starts or encroaching deadlines for one night, and just remember: whatever your sorrows, at least you’re not at Cambridge.

Gladstone Link

A miserable underground maze of sliding shelves, devoid of natural light and happiness.

Editor’s note – I often describe it as having the feeling of an SS bunker, which is perversely motivating


Something Oxford has plenty of, in various varieties from OUSU & the Union (see below) to journalistic. They usually want something from you, often a vote. Sometimes useful when you can manipulate their connections for a favour, but that usually comes at a price…


Oxford’s river, home of rowing and punting. Rowing may look slick, but let’s not forget the 5am starts and incessant erg sessions. For the sake of your physical and emotional wellbeing, I’d limit your time on the Isis to the occasional punt.


A.k.a Junior Common Room. Has three meanings, a literal common room (N.B. quality varies college to college; St John’s has a famously poor one), the whole undergrad student body, and the committee that represents students to the uni/OUSU/whoever else. They hold meetings to decide stuff. Generally, meetings are good for free food but bad for fun. Alcohol is advised.

Kebab Vans

Whether Ahmed’s or Mohammed’s, Hassan’s or Houssein’s, your local kebab vendor will come to hold a special place in your heart. You’ve been warned about the “Freshers’ 15” but you’ll still seek post-night-out refuge at one of Oxford’s cheesy chip-filled havens more times than you’ll care to admit.

Lola Lo’s

An attempt at Tiki paradise on Magdalen street. Home of £1 jaeger bombs and all those Tuesday-night clubbers who can’t face the sweat of Cellar/just aren’t edgy enough.


‘Matricu’-please stop.

The ceremony in which you officially become a member of the University of Oxford. A chance for pics in Subfusc, without an exam in sight. Usually followed by copious drinking. Freshers have been known to become intoxicated by midday.

N.B. Brace yourself for the inundation of cover photos with the captions ‘matriculash’, ‘matriculegend’, ‘matriculad/lass’ etc.

May Day

The 500-year-old tradition of May Morning sees Magdalen College Choir sing the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the top of Magdalen Tower at 6am on 1st May. A fair number of the thousands who crowd below look pretty worse for wear, having come directly from one of the many pubs and clubs that stay open all night in honour of the tradition. Despite your best intentions there’s a strong chance that most of you will end up missing the event of which all the May Day celebrations were in honour, having found the phenomenon of Park End or Bridge past 3am not as amazing as first thought, and crashing long before the singing commences.

Ninth Week

A.ka. sleep. Thank fuck / Soz to those with Mods or Prelims.

Old Man Bridge

The silver fox with two fawning vixens.

A renowned club-goer who proves that you can never be too old to live the fresher lifestyle. No longer sighted in his original habitat, the Thursday-night hangout Bridge, this infamous silver fox is now more regularly spotted at the VK watering hole of Wahoo (see W) or in the Hawaiian tropics of Lola’s – or, on a Sunday, at the renowned Port and Policy (Oxford Uni Conservative Society’s weekly drinks event). His past is shrouded in mystery and must never, under any circumstances, be interrogated.


Our beloved student union (not to be confused with the Union – see below). Nobody is sure how much it does, but it passes some ‘fun’ motions and has opinions on everything. Usually populated with (hard) lefties; Tories and austerity are unpopular. Not our biggest fan either. VERSA will be bringing an OUSU council drinking game to you soon (watch this space). Trust us, you’ll need it.

Prelims (or Mods)

Looking and feeling oh so smart.

You’ll hear this time and time again, but your first year exams really really don’t matter. Effectively Collections in Subfusc and at Exam Schools, just without knowing the questions beforehand. Just relax, do a bit of revision, snapchat story a pic of your carnations, and look forward to trashings (see T).


An invaluable presence in college, they sort your post, lend you spare keys, keep the college secure, and rush to your assistance when their CCTV cameras show you drunkenly collapse by the late-gate. So, whether maxin’ n’ relaxin’ in the Porters Lodge (Plodge) or patrollin’ the quads, you’ll soon come to find these chillers are the true Oxford dons.


Face paint on fleek.

The finale of Wadham’s annual Queer Week, Oxford’s largest celebration of LGBTQ culture. QueerFest promises live music, food, drink, a Plush after-party, and lots and lots of glitter.

R&B floor, Park End (it’s been renamed Lava Ignite, but never call it this. Just don’t.)

Forget the Cheese floor, the Dance room and the weird VIP cave, the only place to be in Parkerz is on the R&B floor. Expect bangerz including TLC’s “Waterfalls”, Punjabi MC’s “Mundian To Bach Ke” and J-Kwon’s “Tipsy”.


A drinking game used at crew dates, essentially along the lines of ‘Never Have I Ever’.

N.B. It can get pretty weird – I’ll remain forever baffled by the guy who drank to “I sconce anyone who gave a homeless man a lift whom they then got with because they felt bad for him.”


The kind soul that braves your messy room, empties your bins, vacuums your floor and cleans your toilet. Oxford may provide you with a fine education, but it definitely doesn’t prepare you for the real world.


Back in the day, after finishing your final Final you’d be sprayed with champagne and then head to the pub.

Overtime, this tradition has become increasingly more extreme. Trashers now bring along copious amounts of shaving foam, silly string, confetti, garlands, party hats and plastic tiaras (and unsavoury foodstuffs by the less kind participants), and the trashees round off the post-exam celebration with a jump in the river.

Never wanting to miss out on a prime profile picture opportunity, freshers completing Mods/Prelims have now hijacked this messy tradition.


What people mean when they say the Union is the Oxford Union, our debating society and ‘the world’s last bastion of free speech‘. Hosts some great speakers (i.e. Morgan Freeman, Anna Wintour) and is pretty much always mired in some sort of controversy that VERSA can write about. Membership fee is steep, but the events are decent, the buildings are pretty, and it’s hidden gem is a much underused (but well stocked) library.


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FriCam has had its day, may Wahoo Fridays long reign supreme. Its name may exaggerate the jubilation you’ll feel there, and its newly revamped smoking area may still fail to match that of Bridge’s excellence, but with its VKs for days and £2.50 doubles, Wahoo is nonetheless a solid way to end the week. And never forget WahPlush: after a few hours at this estimable venue, why not head down the road to Oxford’s best-loved, cheapest, cheesiest LGBTQ club?


With Michaelmas ending in early December, Oxford’s Christmas festivities all get pushed forward a month. Your dinner hall will look cuter and you’ll probably have a Christmas themed Bop, but apart from that oXmas really isn’t a major event in anyone’s calendar. It does provide an excuse for secret Santa on November 25th though.

Yik Yak

A few general facts you’ll gather from Oxford’s Yik Yak:

Our tutors really appreciate the hard work we do for them…

We’re pretty up-beat…

And we’re all in happy relationships…

Zebra Crossings

There’s fuck all of them in Ox so prepare to see your life flash before your eyes on numerous road crossing occasions.

So we’ve reached the end of VERSA’s A-Z, and have only one final entry to go. Sorry we couldn’t leave you on a more positive note, but VERSA, ever the realist, promises never to mislead you…


The enthusiasm you’ll have for your degree by the end of Michaelmas.

That should be enough to get you through Fresher’s week without getting too confused. We take fanmail by pigeon post.