St. Hugh’s, a college founded by Elizabeth Wordsworth in 1886, has been criticized recently because of its curious choice in using an all-male team to represent the college in the British game show, University Challenge. St. Hugh’s was originally created for women in order to provide them with an affordable education, but integrated men into its ranks in 1986.
According to the school’s website, “Many of its alumni have been trailblazers for female achievement in their respective fields. Today, the College still retains a strong sense of its radical tradition, and of the importance of opening up the opportunities of Oxford to all who could do well here. Since its centenary in 1986, St Hugh’s has accepted men and women, and today the College welcomes students from every country, and any kind of background.”
Professor Tara Dean, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Brighton, took to social media, saying, “St. Hugh’s College, Oxford. Set up in 1886 to offer women a HE opportunity. In 2017, an all male university challenge crew from St. Hugh’s. Hmm…”
When addressing the issue, Jeremy Paxman, the presenter of the game show, said, “Since we know that intelligence is not determined by gender, it must be a question of taste. The teams are not chosen by the college or university authorities but by the students themselves.”
Paxman also added, “The students are encouraged to enter teams which broadly reflect their institution. I suspect that – like football or darts – more males than females care about quizzing.”
It does seem odd that a school created by a woman for women would not choose a single woman to represent the school in the game show. It especially seems odd when you look at the fact that “women in the UK are 35 percent more likely to go to university than their male counterparts.”
Of course, a BBC spokesperson jumped in to offer a statement, saying, “The make-up of each team is determined by the universities themselves, and whilst we do encourage them to reflect the diversity of their student population, ultimately each university has their own team selection process.”
University Challenge has been critiqued before for its inherent sexism, even though they claim that universities and colleges choose their own finalists. However, in the past five years, about 95 percent of the finalists chosen for the program have been men. Something here seems to be a little fishy when it comes to selecting contestants for the show.
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