A recent email went out to my college senior common room about signing up for the annual Town and Gown [not versus] 10k.

I’m not interested. But the email made me wonder how we divide our ranks. Do we extend the invitation to the college gown-less? That is, the porters, cooks and scouts—the people that really run the place and see the students for more than an hour a week.

Turns out we do. And quite right too. Modern colleges exemplify the reality that town and gown are indeed united—unless it has to do with planning permission.

Presumably our runners and walkers are not tagged with ‘T’ or ‘G’ either. We are all equal on pavement.

In fact, I see little utility in hinting at the garment divide to encourage a bit of exercise. Not that I have anything against peddling predictable stereotypes now and again. That is my Quad Talk beat after all. Pays the bills.

Alternative topics never seem to inspire. Unlike my colleagues with whom I share this space, I do not read enough poetry to ‘exegete’ with any confidence. Nor do I have enough names to drop [see opposite].

But I digress. My issue is that the ‘town’ and ‘gown’ classification fails to capture the diversity of the university ecosystem at present.

There is a missing category of people that are not quite town, but not quite gown either (or anymore). They are, for instance, DPhil (PhD) students in their nth year (always just about finished), who roam the stacks when they are empty of undergrads for a few fleeting weeks during the vacation periods (for some).

Chances are they lost their gowns yonks ago. Dinner in the dining hall just reminded them of how long they have been around.

The category is also home to the legion of those who are finished and are now underemployed. Their burgeoning ranks are also out in full force during the vacation, busy teaching visiting students. No gown needed. If only they had time for the Bod.

Joining them at their preferred pubs (e.g. The Royal Blenheim, The White Rabbit and The Gardeners Arms on Plantation Road) are the post-docs and junior research fellows. They are hopefully buying the drinks whilst their chances at secure employment still hang in the balance.

Feel free to add or subtract from this group of castaways. My point is that they should not be invited to the run as town or gown, according to myriad criteria.

Try housing. Is this middle lot gown enough to live in Summertown or Iffley? No. Can’t afford it. Are they town enough to live in Kidlington or Greater Leys? No, can’t afford it.

The closest anyone in this group will get to living in central Oxford is on a lilting canal boat.

Boat Race or Oxford United? Neither. The Oxford Student or the Oxford Mail? The Oxford Times, of course.

So I propose a name change—Town, Gown and Frown. I might sign up.