On the 25th of February, in a public meeting, Mansfield’s JCR sided in favour of a motion to discontinue the use of the term ‘scout’ in all JCR communications by the end of Hilary Term 2024. The motion was proposed by a non-committee member of the college’s JCR, Ruth Beecroft, and was seconded by Mansfield’s JCR president, Daisy O’Connell. Moreover, the motion also commits the JCR to informing future Mansfield freshers about the change and discouraging Mansfield College from using the term in its official communications.  

At the meeting, the motion’s proposer explained that after independently researching the term at the Duke Humphries, she had discovered that it had a “problematic history” dating back to the 1700s. The motion itself outlined Beecroft and O’Connell’s belief that the term ‘scout’ was classist since it “functioned as a demarcation of the relationship of subordination and social inequality between the members of staff it referred to and the students at the college”. At the public meeting, all of the JCR members present seemed largely supportive of the motion, although students asked whether the cleaners themselves had been consulted about the name change.  

Ruth Beecroft, the proposer of the Motion, told the Oxford Blue that “hearing the term ‘scout’ [had] always made [her] feel uncomfortable” and she “instinctively questioned” the term alongside other people she spoke to. She decided to further research the term after she was influenced by a module she took, run by Professor Anthon Reddie, which dealt with “systemic inequalities and different types of privilege.”

The governing body of Mansfield College has agreed to replace the term ‘scout’ in their termly college meeting, held after the motion had passed. A member of the accommodation team has stated that the college is supportive of the change and has begun to use the term “housekeeping staff” in place of ‘scout.’ They also confirmed that the cleaning staff had been informed of the change. 

However, interviews with some of Mansfield’s cleaning employees reveal that not all of the college’s housekeeping staff have been made aware of the change. One cleaner stated that they personally did not mind the usage of the word ‘scout’, explaining that was how they referred to themselves professionally and were unaware of the change in terminology. Internal college documents about cleaning shift schedules show that the college still uses the term ‘scout’ to refer to members of the housekeeping team. The email of the Mansfield College housekeeping team (senior.scouts@mansfield.ox.ac.uk) has also not been updated to remove references to the term ‘scout.’  

It also seems that the change has not filtered through to all members of the JCR, in particular those who did not attend the public meeting. One student told The Oxford Blue that they believe their peers have not been made aware of the change – claiming that they only knew about it after seeing an email on a JCR committee member’s phone. Another student stated that they were aware of the JCR motion and agreed with it but they were likely to continue to use the term ‘scout’ anyway because they thought they would probably forget in future. Moreover, one JCR committee member even admitted that they had inadvertently used the term in a meeting with College staff but they apologised as they agreed with the motion and believed that cleaners should not be referred to as ‘scouts.’ The JCR president has said in a statement to the Oxford Blue that Mansfield College no longer uses the term ‘scouts’ and has removed any references to the word when it advertises for job vacancies.