University College has leaders called Senior Man, even if they are women / Rex

A student said the poll amounted to an 'endorsement of sexism'

Durham University's oldest college has been accused of “endorsing sexism” by voting to keep the title of Senior Man for a post that can be held by women.

Undergraduates at University or “Castle” College voted by two to one to maintain the term for the head of the junior common room.

The post, usually known as JCR President, can be held by women but the historical name is still used at three Durham colleges – University, Hatfield and St Chad's.

Junior common room members voted on Tuesday against a motion to get rid of the “Senior Man” title in what one student called an “insult” that enforces prejudice.

University College is based at the castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Flic Burgess, a member of University College in her fourth year, told The Independent the “exclusionary” title alienated women and suggested they needed to adopt a masculine role for the position.

“University College was the last of the Durham colleges to accept women, in 1987, and still very much feels like a public school boys club. This debate is yet another endorsement of sexism within the castle walls,” she said.

Ms Burgess said that although women make up about 53 per cent of the undergraduate population in the college, only two women have run to be Senior Man in the last five years, out of 13 candidates.

Supporters of the title argue it maintains a historical tradition and the past appointment of female Senior Men proves it does not put women off.

Tuesday’s junior common room vote rejected the motion to update it by 154 votes to 72 with two abstentions, out of around 700 potential voters.

It is the second time this year undergraduates have voted to keep the controversial title, after the Hatfield college junior common room rejected a proposal by the female Senior Man to change the name of her own post.

A spokesperson for Durham University said there are more votes and debates to come at University College and this week’s decision was not final.

She added: “A motion, instigated by the college, was raised to change the titles of Master and Senior Man at University College. The college community is in the very early stages of a democratic consultation process. No final decision has been reached.”