Are fish and chips a light snack?Farrah K/UNSPLASH

Following a fire alarm in one of Selwyn’s Old Court staircases, residents received an email from the head porter, Helen Stephens. The email has since sparked a debate online which has been nicknamed ‘fishgate’ and inspired some to call for protest.

In the email, the head porter reminded students that the gyps in their staircases are intended for the preparation of light snacks only. Stephens also reminded them of fire safety regulations.

The email, which was shared anonymously on a Facebook group, was sent after the porters discovered members on one of the floors cooking fish and chips. Stephens wrote: “I trust that you will agree that fish and chips are not light snacks and because you have not read the guide or you have chosen to ignore the rule yet another evacuation was caused in your staircase”.

The email sparked debates within the student community, with one student writing: “I would argue that fish and chips are a light snack.” Students subsequently set up a white board with the question “Is fish + chips a light snack?” and encouraged students to vote either yes or no.

Some students criticised the ambiguity of what constitutes a ‘light snack’, and one post asked: “At what point does a meal become a light snack? Is it against college regulations to eat a series of snacks for dinner? Is Tapas allowed?”

Another post said: “To protest against the college’s role in fishgate, this Friday every gyp will be cooking fish and chips. #fishgate, #demandchange, #beerbatter.”

Fishgate led to a discussion about the standard of food in hall. One student commented: “Maybe if hall offered better food we wouldn’t have to use the gyps for more than light snacks.” Many also felt that hall food at Selwyn College is too expensive.


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Others rose to the defence of the College saying that they liked the food. However, many stated that the food is expensive and said that not allowing students a cheaper alternative to cooking their own meals is unfair.

In a statement to Varsity, a Selwyn spokesperson defended the College. The spokesperson admitted that “it is probably true that Selwyn doesn’t offer the cheapest food in Cambridge” and stated that this is because the College pays its staff “properly” and has “carried out an extensive upgrade of [its] catering offer.”

The spokesperson continued: “It is clearly stated on the first page of our student accommodation handbook that we are not a self-catering college, and the small kitchens on each staircase – equipped with microwaves – are there for lighter snacks.

“We do not plan to install full ovens and more fridges throughout the college in part because it would lead to a significant increase in our carbon footprint just at a time when we need to reduce it.”