An unholy row has broken out at Trinityfourthandfifteen

Confusion and debate has erupted at Trinity after the announcement of a planned breakfast event which initially seemed to forbid men from attending.

The event is scheduled to take place during normal breakfast hours on Monday 23rd November in the college’s Great Hall, and is intended to celebrate 40 years of women being admitted to study at the college.

Before breakfast, a photo will be taken of women and non-binary students in front of the portrait of Elizabeth I, which hangs above Trinity’s dais while the famous painting of Henry VIII is on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Controversy began on Wednesday when the Facebook event created to advertise the event, entitled ‘WOMEN-ONLY HALL FOR BREAKFAST’, stated: “This means no men in hall on Monday for breakfast.”

This triggered an angry response from some students, one of whom wrote on the event’s page, in a post since deleted, denouncing the alleged exclusion of men as “illogical” and an instance of “actively discriminating against the opposite sex”.

Others took to social media, with one poster on Yik Yak advocating “specific support meetings for particular issues”.

Later, Beth Cloughton, Women’s Officer at Trinity College Students’ Union (TCSU), sent an email to Trinity students headed ‘WOMEN’S ONLY BREAKFAST MONDAY 23RD NOVEMBER IN HALL’, but did not include the line stating that men were not permitted to attend the breakfast.

The Facebook event no longer includes the line excluding men, and TCSU President, Cornelius Roemer, later sent an email confirming the college never intended to exclude men.

“The exclusion of men from said event has been a misunderstanding. College does not intend to exclude men from having breakfast during said time and date. College authorities want to celebrate 40 years of women at Trinity by offering a free breakfast to women and non-binary individuals the expenses of which are paid by College.”

Non-binary students are invited by the email, the Facebook event, and the new entry on the Trinity website.

Roemer also confirmed that the event had been planned by the Dean and Senior Tutor of Trinity College, and that the Women’s Officer was consulted and had only been involved in advertising the event. TCSU at large was not involved. The Senior Tutor, Professor Catherine Barnard, sent an email to students on Thursday afternoon clarifying arrangements:

“Women and non-binary students, in their gowns, are invited to attend for the photo at 8 am,” she said.

“After the photo shoot, from approximately 8.30-9.30 am, free coffee and croissants will be available for all students in the hall. A cooked breakfast, charged at the usual rate, will be available from the servery and can be eaten in the Old Kitchens.”

She later told Varsity: “The move to Hall of Elizabeth I, a rare portrait not often seen, offers a unique chance to stage an exciting event that symbolises the College’s commitment to equality of opportunity between the sexes.

“The photograph will be used to reinforce the message – on our website, in social media and our publications – that women can and do flourish at Trinity.”

The confusion stems from the differences between the original email sent by Cloughton and the initial Facebook event description.

Roemer told Varsity he believed the Women’s Officer had “misrepresented” the college’s intentions with her original post, which stated that no men were to be allowed in hall on Monday for breakfast.

Passions have flared over the issue. One anonymous commenter, identifying themselves to Varsity as “Pidge number 323 @ the lesbo college up the hill”, commented: “I’m so glad I'm not at Trinity. Why can't women have a breakfast to celebrate being allowed into the fucking college without wanker meninists complaining?”

Roemer later noted: “An intense discussion has been sparked by the email about the, now hypothetical, question of whether it is helpful to celebrate gender equality with an event that explicitly excludes men.”

In a statement to Varsity, a spokeswoman for the college confirmed: “While women are the key participants, men are not ‘barred’ from Hall that morning; indeed the photographer is male and the catering staff will be both male and female. A free continental breakfast will be available for all students that morning.”

Cloughton complained to Varsity of harassment over the issue, adding “I am confused and saddened at the aggressive responses, but ultimately it is breakfast, for an hour, once. People need to get over whatever they think the event is and see it for what it really is: celebrating the relatively short inclusion of women in Trinity.”

“This is a celebration, not a fight, and people need to get perspective on this event and their life.”

Meanwhile, a student-run solidarity breakfast is being organised in Murray Edwards at the same time on Monday at 8:00am. Senior college figures, including the Senior Tutor and President, are said to support the move. 

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