On 13 March 2019 Professor Sophie Marnette (Professor of Medieval French Studies, Dervorguilla Fellow and Tutor in French) was admitted as Junior Proctor of the University, in a ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre.
Preceded by a Bedel, Fellows of Balliol processed with Professor Marnette to the Sheldonian. There, following a speech by the outgoing Senior Proctor, the Master of Balliol presented Professor Marnette to the Vice-Chancellor and she received the insignia of her office: the statute book and keys.
The University has two Proctors and an Assessor, who are elected annually by the colleges in turn – a system that means that a college elects a Proctor only about every 12 years. The Proctors and Assessor are senior officers of the university who ‘oversee student matters and ensure that the University’s statutes and policies are followed, with particular interest in examinations, conduct and welfare, and other aspects of the student experience’.
On becoming Junior Proctor, Professor Marnette said, ‘My experience of institutions such as universities is that they do not lack in clear principles, ethical policies and mechanism for self-scrutiny, but sometimes lack the courage to apply them at both an individual and institutional level. That Oxford created and is maintaining the proctorship is a testimony to its vision and courage, and it will therefore be an honour for me to represent Balliol and the Congregation in this office. I see the role of the Proctors not only as scrutinising the work of the high-level administrators and the work of the University in general, but also as being a bridge with the colleges by asking the right type of questions and fostering fruitful debate. Very significant amongst the Proctors’ concerns is students’ experience of the University. I am keen to learn more about the decision processes at work and I hope to bring a dynamic and rational approach to the office.’
After the ceremony, Balliol marked this very special occasion with a luncheon in Hall.
The Senior Proctor has special responsibilities in research degrees and the Junior Proctor for taught degrees (the titles Senior and Junior reflecting which one was first admitted to the Oxford MA); the Assessor is typically involved with student health and welfare matters. In recent times Balliol has elected the following as Proctors: P.G.H. Sanders (1971), W. Newton-Smith (1984), P.A. Bullock (1995) and James Forder (2007).
Photographs above and below by Stuart Bebb.