The college tortoise has been a ubiquitous and much loved fixture of Oxford life for decades, but last week Merton bucked the trend as its JCR voted in favour of adopting a college tapir instead.
The decision to adopt the exotic pig came after widespread disappointment at the college’s failure to acquire a tortoise. The Original General Meeting agenda outlined the situation:
“1. Since the JCR’s deeply disappointing failure to acquire a college tortoise, morale among the undergraduate student body has been decidedly low.
2. This trend can be directly attributed to the absence of cute, vaguely exotic animals in college life.
3. The tapir is the archetypal cute, vaguely exotic animal.”
The agenda also notes that “tapirs are much cooler than pelicans”. Samuel Dickinson, who proposed the motion, explained that the animal is a “cross between a pig and an ant-eater.”
The minutes from the meeting record some of the anxieties Merton undergraduates expressed about the adoption of a tapir. One member asked, “Will the tapir be on the desk in Front Quad with the monkey?” but was reassured that “it’s big enough for both.”
Another undergraduate raised the concern that the animal is “fucking ugly”.
Despite these issues, the motion was passed and the JCR is in the process of arranging for a trip to be made to the zoo where the animal lives.
Dickinson expressed delight that his motion had been carried and explained that the idea of adopting a tapir was not as illogical as it might sound: “I happened to be flicking through the OUSU Alternative Prospectuses from 1984 and ‘85 (as you do) and saw that Merton apparently adopted a tapir during the eighties, so there’s something of a historical connection there.”
He expressed doubt that the tapir would be able to reverse Merton’s recent slide in the Norrington table, telling Cherwell “As far as academic prowess is concerned I don’t know whether a tapir-only college would be capable of coming higher in the Norrington table than 14th.”
On the plus side he commented, “I have heard that Tengui (the Malayan tapir we’re adopting) is a big fan of non-linear mathematics and can complete the Times cryptic crossword in under five minutes.”
Despite what he described as a “broadly enthusiastic” attitude toward the tapir adoption across the JCR, he acknowledged that “it may not fill the tortoise-shaped hole in our hearts, even if it does fill the slightly smaller tapirshaped one we never realised was there.”
A third year at Merton commented, “Although the JCR toy monkey, our mascot, is a faithful friend, there’s nothing quite like a cutesy tapir. I’m all for it. I just hope the monkey doesn’t feel upset.”
Not all students shared his enthusiasm. One second year English student, who asked not be named, told Cherwell,“I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. I mean, what even is a tapir. It’s this kind of nonsense that’s responsible for the college’s drop in the Norrington Table.”