Education & Family

Jeremy Paxman 'baffled' by University Challenge boycott

university challenge
Image caption Previous winners Corpus Christi, Oxford. But Reading students are non-starters for 10.

Jeremy Paxman says he is "baffled" by students voting to boycott University Challenge over claims that a complaint about "misogynistic and sexist comments" was not taken seriously enough.

The University of Reading's students' union voted to boycott the show, after hearing claims relating to a previous appearance by the university's team.

Mr Paxman, presenter of the BBC2 quiz show, suggested that it might be about a comment made about a team mascot during a break in the recording.

The students' union at Reading University voted 120 to 105 in favour of adopting a policy of boycotting the quiz show.


The vote followed claims that concerns about a sexist comment had not been taken seriously - but the students' union said that because of a confidentiality agreement it could not disclose what had been said.

Mr Paxman has suggested that it might be about comments he made about a knitted mascot of himself.

"I have racked my brains to discover what on earth the Reading students' union is on about," said Mr Paxman.

Image copyright University of Reading
Image caption University of Reading authorities say they will still organise an entry for the TV quiz show

"I think they're referring to a recording of University Challenge which took place in February 2015, though I am baffled at why it has become an issue a year-and-a-half later.

"There was a technical fault which meant we had to interrupt the recording, leaving all of us sitting at our desks in the studio while the problem was sorted out in the control gallery.

"In the conversation to fill the void - in a brightly lit studio, in front of all eight contestants, a full studio crew and an audience of several hundred spectators - I asked the Reading team about the mascot sitting on their desk.

"One of them said it was a hand-knitted Jeremy Paxman doll. Across the several yards separating the chairman's desk from the teams, I asked the whole team whether they took it to bed with them.

"Though no complaint was made at the time, this, apparently, is what has upset them."

The student union's education officer, Niall Hamilton, said that the concerns over what he called "sexist comments" had not been adequately addressed.

"Misogyny and sexism are not about 'offending' contestants, but undermining and oppressing individuals due to their gender," he wrote on the students' union website.

"These forms of oppression should not be taken lightly," wrote Mr Hamilton.

But the University of Reading says the programme is a "national institution" and will step in to ensure the university is represented in the contest.

"We want our brightest and best students competing against the top universities in the UK in front of millions of viewers - not waving the white flag and refusing to enter," said a University of Reading spokesman.

Reading teams have previously been organised by the university's students' union.

"The university now plans to step in and recruit a team, given the students' union has opted out," said the university spokesman.

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