St Hugh’s College JCR have passed a motion to boycott formal hall “until further notice” after the college pressed ahead with changes to the dining system despite strong student opposition.
The motion was unanimously passed in a meeting on Sunday evening in response to the college’s moves to limit the amount of alcohol consumed at formal hall.
The changes will see students banned from bringing their own wine to formal hall. Instead, a maximum of 2 glasses of wine or a non-alcoholic equivalent will be provided by the hall staff. As a direct consequence, the cost of formal hall will rise from £7.25 to £10.40.
After JCR President Victor Greenstreet was notified of the proposed changes in 0th week, a JCR survey found that over 90% of current students and 80% of the incoming freshers were opposed to the proposal.
Despite being shown the results of this survey, the college chose to implement the changes with a review to be held at the end of Michelmas Term.
Greenstreet recalled: “Whilst these meetings were cordial, it was made clear that the changes to formal hall were still going ahead.”
The motion reflected student unhappiness at the proposed changes: “the experience of formal hall will be damaged by students feeling restricted by being told exactly how much they can drink and who should provide it.”
The motion also cited the financial impact of the price raise on students: “the ability to bring own wine to formal helps keep the cost of formal down for students.”
Greenstreet said that the college had indicated that “the changes were being introduced because of instances of poor behaviour last year”.
However, while there were reports of poor behaviour, no disciplinary action was taken against any student as a result of inappropriate conduct during formal hall last term.
Student Shanna Marten said “I understand the college’s desire to ensure drinking at formal halls doesn’t get out of hand as there were a few incidents last year that definitely lowered the tone and probably spoiled the evening for a few people. However, these were the actions of individuals and I think it is appropriate that sanctions on individuals should be made, rather than on the whole college.”
The motion noted that “a blanket change such as the one the college have implemented punishes the sensible majority of students”, with 89% of current students surveyed believing that the proposals would “damage the experience” of formal hall.
While the boycott remains in place, Greenstreet emphasized that “the JCR committee is remaining active on this issue”: “I have been meeting, and been in email correspondence with, the Principal, Bursar, Dean and Catering Manager over the last couple of weeks and will continue to relay the JCR’s position to them.”
Nevertheless, Martens observed: “These measures are symptomatic of the college’s disciplinary policy in general: a punishing, zero tolerance attitude to any bad behavior related to alcohol.”
She continued: “The college claims their actions will “enhance the atmosphere” of formal hall, but since the majority of students at formal hall behave themselves, the limit has only incurred the resentment of a large proportion of the JCR.”
The college dean, Professor Peter Mitchell, declined to comment.