The first four Queens’ College bops of Lent term have been suspended following a serious case of vandalism at the end of last term.

The Dean of Discipline, Dr Martin Dixon, imposed the ban as a form of collective punishment, effective on the entire student body until the culprits identify themselves.  The suspension has been described by Queens’ students as “disproportionate” and “a knee-jerk” reaction.

The vandalism is believed to have occurred between 6.40am and 7.00am on Friday December 4th, when a fire extinguisher was taken from a staircase in the Cripps Building and sprayed into fridges and over several kitchens. 

Bottles of pasta sauce, soup and cornflakes were also spread across the walls and thrown onto floors and a student’s shoes were filled with hot chocolate.  Every staircase in the building but one was affected, with the total cost of the damage estimated at over £1000.

In an email sent to Queens’ students, Dr Dixon said that “all attempts to identify those responsible have drawn a blank”, adding, “I have no confidence that this was an isolated incident and I cannot be certain that there will not be further incidents”.

Consequently, the first four Queens’ Ents and the MCR charity fundraising Ceilidh, a popular graduate event, will not take place. The Dean emphasized that the fire safety implications of the incident raised serious concerns about the College’s responsibility for students’ and visitors’ welfare.  Therefore, the banned events are those which involve large numbers of non-Queens’ students coming into College.

However, the first-year dinner and the iconic Halfway Hall, which marks students’ halfway point at the University, have also been banned.  Attempts by organisers to move the dates into the second half of term have been rejected.  All further student requests for permission for non-academic related activities will also be refused.

Speaking to Varsity, Queens’ JCR President Emil Hewage said: “There is widespread doubt as to whether any Queens’ JCR members were involved in the acts of vandalism last December. Those who have taken the time to contact the JCR Committee have unanimously expressed their disapproval at what has taken place.

“The scale of the ban is unprecedented in nature, and is particularly surprising given that, on the whole, the JCR has been making increased efforts to be a constructive and supportive member of the college community.”

The Dean has downplayed the severity of the punishment, stating that Formal Halls will still be open as usual and assuring students that regular bookings for sports facilities and film nights will be unaffected.

But some students are reacting furiously to the punishment.  Charlie Bell, Queens’ Bar Representative, told Varsity: “Every student I have spoken to utterly condemns the vandalism that took place.  The JCR and MCR Committees are working with the College authorities to find out who’s responsible, and at the moment this is a priority.

“However, there is a general consensus amongst second years that the banning of Halfway Hall, a major landmark in the Queens’ student experience, is disproportionate, and I am continuing to work with the Dean to find a resolution.  I have promised the second years and I will deliver: there will be a Halfway Hall this year, in whatever form it has to take.”

Bell also pointed out the potential knock-on effect of the suspension on the revenue and reputation of Queens’ Bar.  Queens’ Ents, normally held every Friday, are hugely popular and frequently sell out. On these nights, the Bop Bar is opened in addition to the main bar, which greatly helps to increase the average daily revenue.

Other students have argued that the ban is unfairly punishing all students due to the actions of a small minority.  The College does not yet have any evidence to suggest that the perpetrators were from Queens’.

One of the students whose kitchen was vandalised told Varsity: “I think the Dean’s reaction was a knee-jerk one – I can see why he would feel the need to do something about it because of the cost of the damages, but I don’t think that the whole College should be punished for the mistakes of what was probably only a few people, especially as it’s possible that those people weren't even from Queens’.”

Some of the victims of the vandalism have explained that the incident has made them feel unsafe in college.  They feel that having to endure punishment on top of this adds insult to injury.

The Senior Tutor refused to comment on students’ anger at the ban, but JCR President Hewage has said that a number of Fellows on the Governing Body sympathised with the students’ point of view.  He added that “identifying those responsible would be the quickest and most sure-fire way of being able to resolve this issue.”

The Dean has promised that if the vandals come forward, they will not be sent down.  He explained that the likely course of action would involve excluding the guilty students from the college bar for a temporary period of time. They would also be expected to make an effort to recoup some of the cost of the damages incurred.

He was also keen to emphasise that the suspension on college entertainments will be lifted as soon as the students involved take responsibility for their actions, and says that the identity of any student coming forward to him would be kept in the strictest confidence.