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No students faced disciplinary action for trashing, reflecting limited enforcement of ban

No Oxford students faced disciplinary action, including fines, for post-exam celebrations this academic year, a recent Freedom of Information request revealed. 

Since the 1970s, students have celebrated the end of exams by covering each other with substances including foam, food and alcohol in a tradition known as “trashing.” 

This year the University warned students that “[a]nti-social celebrations including throwing, pouring, or spraying substances of any kind” would be subject to £150 fines, to be “strictly enforced.” Similar warnings were issued in the previous two academic years.

The Proctors’ Office, the University’s central body responsible for student discipline, recorded relatively few citations for trashing in recent years. Last year, the Office fined eight students, while no discipline was administered in 2021.

In spite of the University’s warnings, trashing has continued as standard student practice. One student estimated that over 90% of his college year group took part in at least a “more limited form of the tradition,” with some students spraying water rather than foam and confetti. Other students, deterred by University security around the Examination Schools, simply moved their trashing elsewhere, such as to Port Meadow, an area of common land outside of Oxford city centre. 

In a press release from April, the University said that trashing causes environmental damage and worsens relations with the local community. The University estimates annual costs of £45,000 for trashing-related safety and clean-up services. Data from 2017 revealed that a minority fraction of the total cost went to cleanup efforts, with a significant majority directed at paying security staff. 

Last year the Oxford Student Union called the University’s fine policy “punitive” and said it would cause students “distress and upset.” They also argued that fines would pose a greater or lesser deterrent to students depending on their financial situation.

A University spokesperson told Cherwell: “We are pleased that so many students chose to mark the end of their exams in a responsible and respectful way this year. There was a marked decrease in antisocial behaviour, with students complying with requests not to litter. 

“The fact that there was no need to issue fines this year highlights our student community’s commitment to sustainable exam celebrations, and we would like to thank them for their positive engagement. 

“We will continue to ask students to celebrate sustainably in the years ahead, with fines in place for those who breach the University’s Code of Discipline.”

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