Oxbridge misrepresented in the media, again

Vice made us look like horrendous toffs…

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You may have watched the video published by Vice yesterday titled “Talking Politics with Drunk Toffs at the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race”.

Thus advertising its complete lack of prejudice and agenda from the off, the video sets out to portray us as, well, drunk toffs. And that’s not fine.

The presenter, Gavin Haynes, begins by citing four candidates for Prime Minister, and kindly points out for us where they were respectively educated.

“Miliband – Oxford, Cameron – Oxford, Clegg – Cambridge, Natalie Bennett – The University of Leicester.”

This is probably a good time to point out that Gavin’s dressed like a clergyman. Which is fine, I guess.

Gavin telling us about boats and posh people

He then claims that despite most of our politicians having attended “the ivory towers of Oxbridge” we rarely hear about the problems of “the metropolitan elite”. Is he seeking to imply that Oxbridge should have more influence in the public sphere? That its students are a marginalised out-group?

Or perhaps we should entertain the notion that he is being sarcastic. So maybe he means that the elite shouldn’t run the country and that Oxbridge should be less elitist.

What a good question

Oxbridge should be less elitist, sure, I’ll give you that. But do you know what’s not helping that case? Using elitist language to define it. Don’t refer to Oxbridge as an “ivory tower” if you’re trying to remove the elitism you believe pervades these universities. None of our towers are made of ivory, that shit’s not fairtrade, man.

The elite probably shouldn’t solely run the country. I can get behind that message too. But people from Oxbridge aren’t by default less capable of running the country than anyone else. In fact, they’re probably pretty smart and definitely well educated. What’s wrong with that?

We don’t look like this all the time…

Gavin the clergyman tells us our country is run by politicians from these “ivory towers” and that we seldom discuss the problems of the elite. He says “instead we’re treated to hard-working families, the squeezed middle, the soot-blackened, crust-munching prol people”.

Is the implication that people from Oxbridge can’t be from hard working families, or that politicians from Oxbridge are incapable of entertaining ideology to cater to the squeezed middle? Really?

The presenter of this video has a prejudice, and it’s against Oxbridge students. Rather than trying to counter the issues he has with ingrained elitism, he is perpetuating them.

C’mon Gavin, you’re better than that.

Gavin gets real

The video actually becomes problematic however, when Haynes begins interviewing drunk students.

Not only does he solely approach students who are quite clearly too drunk to be entertaining coherent political (/any) thoughts, but he only broadcasts students who seem to fulfil his preconceived stereotype that Oxbridge is full of champagne-guzzling, far-right conservatives.

This is non-representative…

It’s convenient that he didn’t come across any of those who occupy the far left that most of Cambridge seems to consist of. Not that there’s anything wrong with being right-wing. There is something wrong however, with the selection bias in this video.

And it’s not okay to approach evidently drunk students to ask them about issues which no one could really tackle cogently unless sober. Embarrassing and effectively shaming drunk kids on a very public platform for the sake of consolidating your preconceived bias isn’t fine, in any capacity.

If someone approached me in Cindies while battered on Jaeger Bombs and VK’s (which happens regularly because I am a #legend) I probably wouldn’t give a greatly insightful analysis of the British political system. But that’s not to say I couldn’t do that when sober. Just like the people in this video.

Antony Marsden, a second year from Caius who features in the video even said that he was too drunk to remember being approached. That’s not the sort of person you should interview in a public forum. What did Gavin expect? A cogent analysis of the budget? Or exactly what he got – “David Cameron’s a fucking legend”.

Interviewing drunk students isn’t really that cool

However, the day is saved by a man in a Cambridge Scarf wielding a can of Strongbow in the following exchange:

Gavin: “Do you think our country is run by a parasitic elite?”
Strongbow man: “No. Are you setting us up because we’re wearing blazers?”
YES. Thank you Strongbow man. Because that’s exactly what he’s doing.

God-bless you, Strongbow man.

Strongbow man, you’re my hero

Gavin rounds off by asking the camera “who are these people?”, “where have they come from?”, further widening the gap he himself has established between the so-called “parasitic elite” and “normal people”. He’s created a dichotomy where one needn’t exist.

Also, the man deep throating the mic at 2.59 I could have done without. It was pretty unpleasant.

No one wanted to see that

How are we expected to overcome this stereotype, which is utterly false, if journalism like this continues to sustain it? If the presenter has such a problem with the Oxbridge elite and their position in politics, then surely perpetuating this stereotype is going to do nothing more than scare these “normal” people away from our universities, exacerbating the problem.

Oxbridge is not full of posh, horrendous twats like this video tries to prove. Not even all the people in the video are posh, horrendous twats. They’re just drunk.

Oxbridge is full of intelligent people with insightful political views and a lot to offer this country. The problem of ingrained elitism needs to be overcome, of course, but we are very much on our way to doing that. However the implication that we are nothing more than “drunk toffs” is damaging and goes exactly against what Oxbridge is trying to achieve in light of their image.

We don’t deserve this reputation.

And to think I believed in you, Gavin.