Oriel College library has been restricted to opening only during office hours following separate incidents where students were caught having sex in the library, and where bookshelves and books were left in disarray.
In an email to students following the rearrangement of bookcases, the Senior Dean, Juliane Kerkhecker, noted that, “The library is not being treated with the appropriate consideration this term.”
She went on to describe the mess left in the Theology section stating, “This is not acceptable. It is not only inconsiderate because it means extra work and heavy lifting for the librarian, it is also inconsiderate towards all users of the library.”
The email appealed for those responsible to contact the Dean and warned, “If the library and the librarian will not be treated with due respect from now on, then I shall have to consider closing the library outside office hours.”
When the allocated time for confession passed without the culprits coming forward, Kerkhecker informed members of the JCR, “The library will be closed at 5.30pm on weekdays; it will be open from 7.30am on weekdays. The library will not be open overnight nor on the weekend.”
The email gave no indication of when the restrictions would be lifted and members of the college have not received further information.
Patrick Penzo, a second year Classicist at Oriel expressed his concern over the matter, telling Cherwell, “I really don’t know how permanent this measure is. There have been many threats of library closures over the past few years and no one has ever taken any notice of them. If the reduced opening hours are still in place next term I will be furious as I have Mods.”
The justification for the changes, as given by the Senior Dean in an email to all Oriel students was, “disregard for the library and its rules, and a lack of a sense of responsibility to the community [which has] resulted in the changed opening hours for the library.”
The description by the Dean of the incident which triggered the emails stated that, “bookcases had been moved in the Theology section of the library with books spread around.”
One Oriel student however, claimed this was not of great significance, commenting, “all that had been done to the library was a bookshelf on rollers had been moved closer to a desk and a lamp placed on top. Some books had been stacked on top of the bookshelf. Nothing bad.”
Several undergraduates, however, confirm that there was an incident in the library recently in which two students were caught by a porter while having sex. Some Orielenses have claimed that this is the real cause of the closures and that the bookshelf incident was “both the straw which broke the camel’s back, and an excuse to take harsh measures against such occurrences.”
One second year Historian, Robert Fleck, commented, “It is irritating that some students feel it is acceptable to behave in a way that threatens to take the privilege of the library away from all members of college. The entire college is being punished for the actions of the few.”
Another undergraduate at Oriel who wished to remain anonymous told Cherwell, “The closure of the library is outrageous. The way in which Oriel students – many of whom rely on the library as a workplace for theses and coursework – have been treated, ironically, shows a complete and utter lack of respect.
“We have already been subject to collective punishment on several occasions over the past few years, and have expressed our disappointment with the disciplinary system at Oriel accordingly through the JCR. How can the Deans expect us to treat them with respect if we are continually subjected to a dysfunctional disciplinary procedure that undermines the kind of familial ethos a small college such as Oriel seeks to promote?”
Previously collective punishment was implemented against the JCR in cases of bad behaviour by members of the college in clubs and at college events. This led to a motion in February 2010 which stated, “There is a precedent for collective punishment [at Oriel]. This JCR believes that collective punishment is not acceptable.” The motion in the JCR Meeting passed with only two against and one abstention.
The JCR was also previously threatened with limited opening times last May due to incidents when chairs were broken and food and drink consumed inside the library however eventually no restrictions were enforced.