Pembroke responds to incidents of verbal abuse with ‘Porter Appreciation Week’

Pembroke JCR has voted to create a “Porter Appreciation Week”, following reports of students behaving in a “verbally abusive” manner towards porters.

Porters will  recieve cards, baked goods, vocal appreciation, and poetry over the entire course of 7th week.

Approved in Sunday evening’s JCR meeting, the motion ‘Porter Pals’ notes that porters have “had a hard time recently – mainly from members of the JCR” and proposes “cards and vocal appreciation” as the “best way to honour our porters”. An initial suggeston of “Porter Appreciation Day” was overturned in favour of a week-long event.

The JCR’s actions follow a number of reports of “verbal abuse” from Pembroke students towards porters. In an email sent to Pembroke JCR on February 6th, Home Bursar Mike Naworynsky mentioned “recent isolated incidents of casual abuse toward our hard working Porters late at night”, even citing “potential racial harassment cases”. Naworynsky wrote that he was “very concerned and surprised by what I am seeing and hearing”.

One drunken Pembroke student was reportedly told to spend an evening in the lodge last week after antagonising porters, while another undergraduate rang the lodge doorbell for a number of minutes, continuing even after a porter had opened the door.

The Facebook event created for Porter Appreciation Week proposes a secret complement box, a big JCR card, and a poetry competition, in which students are encouraged to write a poem about their favourite porter. All the poems  will be printed and presented to the porters in a booklet. The original motion was received warmly by the JCR, passing with overwhelming support.

Third-year student Dan Bowen, who proposed the ‘Porter Pals’ JCR motion, said he was “excited to see what the creativity of the student body can produce given this opportunity”, commenting: “The recent motion was designed to allow students to express their (often silent) gratitude for the pivotal role that our Porter team plays in the Pembroke community.”

Bowen, a Biological Science student, continued: “I hope it reaffirms a strong relationship between the student body and our most charismatic, fun and well-liked members of staff.”

Bowen added that, although prompted to create the motion by the recent student behaviour, he originally conceived the idea “a few years ago”, with the alleged conflict between Pembroke students and porters “not [being] the main motivation for this motion”.

Steven Capper, Head Porter at Pembroke, described the event as a “lovely” and “very thoughtful” gesture, commenting: “As a team we work hard at providing a warm, friendly lodge, building a good working relationship with our student community. Pembroke has a reputation as a friendly inclusive college and it really makes a difference to the work place to be part of that.”

Capper continued: “This JCR motion has come as a complete surprise, simply put it is a lovely gesture, very thoughtful, and reinforces the affinity the [Pembroke lodge] has with students. Just hope we don’t have hug a porter day or we won’t get any work done!”

Capper was unable to comment on the claims of racial harassment allegedly directed toward porters from students.

Image: Mark Wainwright