In a press release to Cherwell, the Oxford SU condemned plans by the University to fine students for ‘trashing’.
A tradition dating back to the 1980s, trashing is a celebratory event. Finalists, having finished their exams and wearing subfusc, are doused in whipped cream, confetti and other substances, before jumping into one of Oxford’s rivers to wash it all off.
Nonetheless, trashing has faced sustained opposition from the council and University administrators, with the high cost of clean-up, environmental hazards and elitist nature of the tradition all coming under fire.
After moving to ban the practice a few years ago, the University is now planning to fine those participating. The full SU statement reads:
“Oxford SU are disappointed that the University is going ahead with its decision to fine students for post-exam celebration.
“We want to reiterate Oxford SU’s opposition to the University’s Sustainable Post Exam Celebration campaign. The SU has been in multiple meetings and part of a formal consultation where we expressed our opposition to a punitive approach, and especially one which fined students.
“While we, like many students, believe that environmental sustainability and being mindful of the wider Oxford community are essential, we do not believe that this campaign is a suitable solution to the issues associated with post exam celebration.
“This campaign will not be effective in tackling the issues the University claims it will. The use of fines creates a disproportionate punishment as it will have a great impact on some students, depending on their financial situation. It means that students who can afford the fine will continue to trash, while only the students who can’t afford the fine will be prevented from participating. A punitive approach will never resolve the problems associated with post-exam celebration.
“We also object to the top-down and paternalistic approach the University has taken which vilifies, patronises and scapegoats students. This campaign pins negative stereotypes about Oxford University and its poor relationship with local residents on students and post exam celebrations. This is unfair and untrue. The University as an institution is responsible for its reputation of elitism and its impact on the rest of the city. Furthermore, it is not students’ responsibility to save the University money in order to run essential student services and facilities, as the campaign states. The University should be funding and making this a priority regardless.
“Finally, we recognise the importance of post exam celebration for students and the role it plays in getting students through a stressful exam period, especially in light of the pandemic and its impact on student experience. There has been little to no attempt from the University to consult students and to understand the importance and the reality of post exam celebration for students and the steps students have already been taking to be more conscious members of the Oxford community.
“Oxford SU believes in promoting ‘Green Trashing’ with sustainable materials that are easy to clean up and encouraging students to clear up after themselves. This should be paired with collaboration from colleges to provide students with spaces which are out of the way of the public, as well as providing students the necessary clean-up equipment.
“We have written to the University reiterating our stance and expressing our disappointment and we are awaiting their response.”
A University spokesperson contacted Cherwell to request that the university’s position on trashing is included. Senior Proctor Professor Jane Mellor said: “Throwing food and other materials in exam celebrations is wasteful and disrespectful. We know that our students are committed to sustainability and urge them to extend this to their exam celebrations this year.”
Junior Proctor Professor Linda Flores commented: “We recognise that this has been a difficult time for us all, and students will be keen to celebrate their achievements. However, we also recognise that we are part of a community and that means exercising consideration and respect for everyone and for our environment.”
Image credit: Phillip Halling/CC-SA-BY: 2.0
The article was editied at 15:09 Saturday 23 April to include the University’s response.