The original plans included the introduction of CCTV in the barwikimediacommons

Sidney Sussex College have backtracked on proposals to introduce security cameras to the college bar in a U-turn that will be seen as a victory among students.

After weeks of disputes between the domestic bursar and members of the student community over control of the bar, the College has backed down, admitting to Varsity that “they didn’t get it right first time."

Sidney’s student-run bar, one of the last of its kind in the University, has been caught up in disagreements around security and autonomy with college administration. In recent weeks and months the bar has faced issues due to increased demand, particularly from members of other colleges.

In emails seen by Varsity, the domestic bursar called for CCTV to be introduced in and around the bar, allegedly going against previous verbal commitments made to members of the student body and bar management. They said that the measure would need to be paid for by the bar rather than the College. According to an open letter circulated among students, College said it would cost £2500, nearly 15% of the bar’s annual budget.

In the same email, the domestic bursar, Kathryn Smart, referred to the bar staff as “young” and “inexperienced” with “very little knowledge”, wording that some within the student community have referred to as patronising.

When asked about Smart’s remarks, Laurie Wilcockson, the student manager of the bar, said: “Inexperienced bar staff all receive informal training, followed by training on-shift from their experienced worker. Experienced workers are formally trained in licensing law and alcohol retail, with a qualification from the British Institute of Barkeeping. This, combined with usually a full year’s prior experience of working at the bar means my workers are especially well-trained.”


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At the time of the disagreement, members of the JCR disclosed that they believed that some individuals within Sidney’s College administration were attempting to undermine the student body by subverting channels of communication.

On 13 November, an open letter was published by representatives of the student body, citing “deep concern with the College’s lack of integrity and transparency regarding Sidney Sussex College Bar.”

The letter refers to the College’s actions as stemming from an “institutionalised lack of respect for student views” and has so far amassed 329 student signatures, the vast majority of which are from undergraduates within the College.

The installation of the wiring for CCTV cameras within the bar was scheduled for 14 November, but at the time of writing, it has yet to go ahead. Since then, the College has further backtracked from its initial plan of action, citing in its statement to Varsity that it was committed to finding a “constructive” way forward for Sidney bar to remain a “welcoming space” that is “run by students”. Signalling that, at least for the moment, the autonomy of the bar will remain in the hands of the student body.