An English Faculty official informed students on Friday morning of the theft of what was called “a number of canisters of expensive tea” from the lobby of the building, which was described as “not particularly secure.”
The expensive tea had, before the tea thief struck, been delivered with the intention of being used at an English Faculty conference.
The caterers for the conference were, according to Sanders, “willing to draw a line under the matter” if the thief were to return the pilfered canisters before the end of Friday, although investigations were also already underway to identify the culprit.
However, it appears that the culprit has not yet handed themselves in nor been identified, and the stolen tea canisters remain at large.
The English Faculty’s annual English Graduate Conference, described on its website as a “lively and stimulating” event based around the theme of ‘object’, went ahead as planned on Friday despite the tea debacle. The all-day conference featured author Frances Hardinge as keynote speaker, a panel discussion on the concept of the book as an object, and an opportunity for a number of graduate students from a number of different universities to speak about their research.
Concerns have thus been raised about security of perhaps more valuable items in the “not particularly secure” St Cross building, with Sanders reminding students to “please take care with your belongings at all times.”
Adam Diaper, a first year History and English student at Merton, said that “I think such an event is dreadful, all the more so if it turns out the perpetrator is a student,” and added that “it is disappointing that Oxford English students cannot be trusted.”
However, Diaper suggested that the theft should be put in perspective, saying that “to increase security at the English Faculty to, say, the level of that at the RadCam would not only prove a nuisance for students and lecturers alike, but would surely be a waste of University or Faculty resources over what is in the grand scheme of things a fairly minor event.”
He also endorsed Sanders’ advice for students to be attentive with their possessions, saying: “Surely the most appropriate course of action would be for staff and students at the English faculty and indeed generally throughout the University to be more vigilant and careful with what they leave unguarded in public spaces.”
However, there have also been questions asked about the wisdom of the English Faculty’s decision to bring in the apparently more costly tea canisters in the first place. Ella Bucknall, an English fresher also at Merton, argued that “I’m all for catching thieves, but I’m not sure spending money on ‘expensive tea’ for conferences is necessarily priority spending for the English Faculty.”
And berating the faculty for spending its money on expensive Bucknall also added: “No conference-goer is likely to kick off about having a mediocre brew!”