Phi Beta Cons

Oxford College Not Joking Around

OXFORD, Merton College: Administrators issued a stern warning to its student body on Monday after finding that some students were making gay jokes during an intense game of pool. This rather interesting perspective on the affair quotes the Oxford administrators official e-mail:

[Junior Common Room] members have raised concerns after groups have been overheard in the Games Room and other communal areas of college using terms like “gay” and “poof” as joking insults. Please be aware that using language like this is unacceptable and extremely offensive, even if you are not being intentionally malicious and think you are being ironic or witty in some way. It creates an uncomfortable atmosphere in the college.

Though I’ve never been very appreciative of or amused by gay jokes in general, I think it’s fair to defend the right of someone to make a gay joke. It doesn’t take much to see that it is, after all, a slippery slope from here. To state the obvious: if this is off-limits, then what constitutes joking material? Morality? Sensitivity? That cuts out, oh, 90 percent of adult humor.
Somehow I suspect that if I heard a fellow student joking about women in the most objectifying sense, administrators would not issue a stern reprimand to the school body. Well, perhaps I should move to Oxford. They are urging (though somewhat selectively, yes), the public decency that society lost a century ago, or in the case of competitive games like pool, we arguably never had.
 Not to mention that censoring offensive behavior that is not intended to be offensive is bordering on the ridiculous. Intention is the very definition of libel and slander – it would be a sorry sight indeed if students at private institutions, already deprived of many of their rights, risk losing this one as well.