More than 100 Hertford students staged a day-long campaign against the privatisation of their College bar on Tuesday.
The campaign included a demonstration on the College quad and an all-day boycott of eating in hall.
By 12:30 PM, only five students were eating in the College’s Dining Hall.
Mostly JCR members attended the protest, with some MCR members saying they were unaware the protest was taking place.
The 100 participants represented a significant portion of Hertford’s 380-strong JCR, of whom 96 percent voted against the college’s privatisation proposal in a recent JCR survey.
“The turnout is pretty impressive considering it’s raining and so many people have exams”, one second-year English student said. “It shows the incredible strength of feeling here.”
Despite the clash with exams season, a smattering of finalists still turned out for the protest.
“I took time out of exams because I think it’s an important cause, and it’s worth fighting for”, one fourth-year physicist said.
Out of fear of repercussions, and to stop the protest from being discovered early, campaign organisers planned the protest through a private Facebook group called ‘Save Hertford Bar’.
Protesters expressed anger at the ‘privatisation’ of their bar, which was voted the best in Oxford in 2007 and is one of only a handful of student-run bars remaining in the University.
“It’s the heart of Hertford. The college is turning into a giant boarding school”, a 2nd-year geographer said.
The college did not tell students why the decision was made, and JCR members suggested a wide range of potential reasons.
One member speculated that the College may have wanted to privatise the bar after suggestions female members were made to feel unwelcome there.
“Despite the ridiculous statement that girls get intimidated down the bar, I’d be willing to strip naked and run across to quad to prove this isn’t so,” a female historian said.
“We’re sixth in the Norrington table…standards have gone up, and it’s because of a good relaxed atmosphere in college”, Hertford student James Lester said.
The bar also makes the JCR a small profit, which it will lose if the bar becomes college-run.
But the revenue is not enough to support the salary of a full-time barman, and the bar must bring in much more revenue for the College to make money.
Students expressed doubt that the College would be able to turn a profit.
“Even if they increase drink prices, there’ll be a massive drop in popularity, but I think the college probably accepts that”, one second-year PPE-ist said.
Students were also angry at the manner in which the decision was reached.
A spokesperson for the boycott said: “We didn’t know the review panel was taking place, and we didn’t know until two days before the meeting that a decision was being taken. The bar treasurer and bar manager got a brief meeting with the bar review committee a few weeks before, but we had to ask for that meeting, they never contacted us, and it wasn’t a particularly constructive meeting.”
JCR President Mac Bavcik added: “A lot of the SCR thinks this is just about the bar; it’s about being considered as full members of college and our views being taken seriously. Despite an overwhelming feeling in the JCR, the decision has gone the other way… The decision was taken in the reserve business of the governing body meeting so the JCR wasn’t allowed to be there, which is bizarre seeing as it entirely concerns the JCR.”
It wasn’t only amongst the JCR that sentiments ran high. When asked to comment on the bar, one Don said: “Frankly, I’d rather die”.
Hertford’s Dean hung up the phone when contacted by a reporter from this paper.
Hertford Principal John Landers said the college “recognises the right of our students to protest peacefully.”