Experience of fining varies hugely between colleges. Whilst most issue monetary fines, others prefer to punish students by non-financial methods. There is also much discrepancy between colleges in how often fines are imposed, their value, and what behaviour is deemed punishable. Students on the wrong side of this have expressed their resentment to C+.
A few colleges do not exact financial fines. Balliol JCR President, Dan Turner, told C+ that, “The punishment regime in Balliol generally is very soft and liberal. Rule-breaking would be treated more as a pastoral issue than a punitive one. People don’t really get fined, and the worst punishment you could expect would be a ban from the bar.”
In contrast, colleges such as University College only issue financial fines. JCR President Abigail Reeves commented, “Fines, if issued, are financial… Community service is not issued as a punishment, but if individuals create too much mess they are strongly encouraged to clean up after themselves. The main form of punishment is being sent to see the Dean, discipline issues rarely go further than this.”
Keble is a college where fines were in the news last Michaelmas after a crackdown on “Keble Blinds” drinks. However, JCR President Tomas Ford told C+ that “the Dean will often make the first fine delayed, so you only pay it if you do actually re-offend”, and noted no recent controversies about Keble’s policy.
Whilst many individual respondents to the C+ survey were critical towards their college’s fining policy, JCR representatives contacted by C+ did not note any particular controversies or larger problems with the college’s stance. Although one individual at New College labelled its attitude to fining “ridiculous”, New College JCR President Kath Nicholls commented, “The JCR on the whole doesn’t seem to have particularly strong opinions either way on the subject of fines. No-one has approached me to suggest I look into the fines system at New College… A fairly small number of students receive fines, and I believe that the College would waive a fine if the student were in any kind of financial difficulty.”
Fabian Apel, Magdalen JCR President, said, “I am not aware of any recent controversies; it is rare that people feel that they have been treated unfairly, although there have been occasional cases of people feeling their fines were too high.”
Abigail Reeves, the University College JCR President, suggested the introduction of “some form of cap, to ensure that people can’t be caught off guard and also to make sure individuals are given the opportunity to speak to college about the reasonableness of the fine issued”.
As such, JCR Reps are split over the effectiveness of fining, and the debate will continue, although it appears that the University will not change their policy any time soon.