New College has removed 150 fridges from the college after overheating and leaking problems.
After coming into contact with the leaked refrigerant, some New College students claim to have displayed symptoms of mild ammonia poisoning, including rapid skin irritation and mild chemical burns.
In an email to students, New College said that fridge supplier PeelMount had accepted there was an “endemic fault” in the batch and that the “only option” was to “remove them from college”.
Students were given four days notice to empty and turn off their fridges before they were removed.
New College apologised to students for “the inconvenience the intrusions and loss of your fridge will inevitably cause”, but insisted that “the decision to remove the entire batch of fridges was not taken lightly” and “was a safety precaution”.
The College has not yet provided replacements as they want “independently verified assurances” that a “like-for-like replacement won’t have exactly the same fault”.
In an email to students, Home Bursar Caroline Thomas noted that “getting the company to admit there was a problem was initially a bit of a struggle”.
Tim Wallis, a New College first-year, said: “Obviously the lack of a fridge has affected me, and I’m not best pleased that it’s been left unresolved for nearly a week. It has been known for quite some time that the fridges were, at best, dysfunctional. Even when they were supposedly working the majority of them either failed to cool anything to much below room temperature, or froze everything and pumped out heat like a radiator in the process.”
He added that he thought “college had the right idea, but they could have performed better” in dealing with the situation.
Richard Eagleton, Group Marketing Director for the parent company of PeelMount apologised for the inconvenience caused to New College students from this “really unfortunate event”.
He stressed it was not a “product recall”, because while “the product has failed,” PeelMount “haven’t identified an endemic fault yet”.
It will be “a few weeks” before replacements come of the new fridges but Eagleton added that they are “trying to expedite that”.
Eagleton said that he couldn’t give assurances it wouldn’t happen again, but “I can give you the same assurance we give everybody. We buy reputable products from reputable people. We pride ourselves on getting it right”.
Robert Harris, a second-year New College student, said: “It might just be an attempt by New College to go back to its roots; to remind everyone that we are actually a very old College, and that electric fridges would not have been available when we were founded.