Paxman denies ‘sexist’ comments made to a University Challenge team

Reading Students’ Union have boycotted the show

Two days ago it was reported that Reading Students’ Union were boycotting University Challenge over claims that the show’s host had made ‘sexist and misogynist’ comments to the Reading team.

Reading SU claim that comments made by Paxman during the recording of Reading University vs. Imperial College London in February 2015 were not taken seriously enough, despite a complaint being lodged to the production company.

Even though the Union’s rejection of 120 to 105 students voting in favour of boycotting the show, Reading University have said they will continue to recruit a team on the grounds that “the best way of combating prejudice and encouraging women to take part is fronting and entering a team”, according to a spokesperson.

Conflict arose after Paxman allegedly asked the Reading team whether they took their mascot, a knitted Jeremey Paxman doll, to bed with them.

The comment was made in a filming break due to a technical hitch during a graphics round.

Paxman said: “To fill the void – in a brightly lit studio, in front of all eight contestants, a full studio crew and an audience of several hundred spectators – I asked the Reading team about the mascot sitting on their desk.

“One of them said it was a hand knitted Jeremy Paxman doll.

“Across several yards separating the chairman’s desk from the team, I asked the whole team whether they took it to bed with them.”

Reading’s team captain, Samantha Buzzard, a PhD student and the only woman on the show, took offence to the comments.

Production staff have said that the issue was resolved amicably in house, whereas Reading SU claim a complaint was lodged that Paxman had offended a contestant.

Since the incident, Reading Students’ Union have voted in favour of boycotting the show, leaving Reading University to recruit members for the team.

Reading University Education Officer, Niall Hamilton, wrote online: “Misogyny and sexism are not about ‘offending’ contestants, but undermining and oppressing individuals due to their gender.

“These forms of oppression should not be taken lightly”.

A spokesperson for University Challenge has said Paxman’s comments were “misinterpreted”, further describing the Students’ Union’s comments as “surprising”. They added: “We are, however, pleased that Reading University continues to apply for the show.”