In an effort to curb crime, St Hugh’s have recently introduced a system which ‘zones off’ some buildings, only allowing those who live in them to enter them and to access the facilities there, and has been a subject of “considerable debate” in the JCR.
Bursar, Nick French, played down objections to the project, saying “The zoning of fobs is just a term used by the software package we use and it enables us to manage the system more effectively. Students are given access to all common areas and areas that are used by the JCR or MCR respectively (for instance the computer rooms, laundry facilities and tutor rooms) as well as the area in which they live.”
Though the changes were called “considerable” by Sara Polakova, the JCR President, in an email to the JCR, she later claimed that “so far” the changes were “of minor character and not particularly restricting” when contacted by Cherwell. She did suggest that more changes were likely to come, as only four staircases of one building are currently zoned off, yet the JCR was informed that plans are to zone off every floor or staircase in two particular buildings.
French identified the college’s motivation as “not only to increase security and therefore giving students peace of mind but also it is a much more efficient way to manage the system.” Ms Polakova agreed, saying the change was due “to an increase of crime in North Oxford”, property such as laptops going missing in the previous term, and advice by insurance companies and the police to tighten security.”
There was further disagreement between the information the JCR was given and what the Bursar and JCR President have told Cherwell. Nick French asserted the change “has not cost the college any money at all”, but one Presidential email to the JCR claimed it “costs A LOT”. Although the JCR was not consulted beforehand, she asserts that she respects the decision of college authorities, especially due to the scale of the changes. Earlier emails called the new situation “not ideal”.
Thomas Cureton, a 2nd year History and Politics student, commented: “At first this was apparently proposed as an improvement of security following several laptop thefts last year. However, it may indeed be the case that this is the result of complaints about people using kitchens in certain buildings as they are of a much better size and quality.
Effectively, despite the fact everyone pays a flat rate of rent, the college disallows the use of the best facilities to everyone – preferring to restrict their use to those who live within that accommodation area.”
Polokova said that although she saw both “advantages and disadvantages” of the new system, she and her Vice-President, Andy Wilson are looking into proposing a “slight alteration to the system, where both college’s security and people’s freedom of access would be preserved”.