Ox­ford faces call to ban schol­ars’ gowns

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Olivia Rudgard

OX­FORD stu­dents have voted to ban gowns that mark out the clever­est among them from “com­mon­ers” at law de­bates be­cause they cre­ate “un­con­scious bias” among ex­am­in­ers.

The stu­dent union voted to lobby the univer­sity to bar the high­est-achiev­ing law stu­dents from wear­ing “schol­ars’ gowns” be­cause they cause un­fair­ness at moot de­bates, sim­u­lated court hear­ings at which stu­dents prac­tise their le­gal ar­gu­ments in front of judges.

The gowns, which are longer and have open sleeves, are re­served for schol­ar­ship stu­dents or those who have done par­tic­u­larly well in their ex­ams.

They are also worn for for­mal ex­ams, but sup­port­ers of the change ar­gued that this did not cause the same prob­lem, as mark­ers could not see what the stu­dent had been wear­ing when judg­ing their work.

Ac­cord­ing to the stu­dent news­pa­per Cher­well, the mo­tion pro­posed by Thomas Howard, a sec­ond-year law stu­dent at Mag­dalen Col­lege, said that “judges, some­times from lead­ing law firms and cham­bers, may have un­con­scious bias based on the gowns worn.”

Mr Howard told a stu­dents’ union meet­ing that judges’ pre­con­cep­tions could be “dam­ag­ing for those in a com­mon­ers’ – and can be for the schol­ars too, since the judge may ex­pect more of them”.

Not all stu­dents sup­ported the vote. One com­mented that it was “silly”.

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