Deaned!: Cambridge Discipline Uncovered, Part 1

How transparent is college and University discipline? Not very, as it turns out. In the first of a two-part series, we explore how the system works, and how YOU have been dealt with.

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How transparent is college and University discipline? Not very, as it turns out. But after a month-long investigation, The Tab has gained exclusive access to hundreds of previously unseen cases. They contain a fascinating insight into the misdeeds of staff and students – the crimes, the punishments, and the startling differences between how colleges deal with cases. In the first of a two-part series, we explore how the system works, and how YOU have been dealt with.


We submitted Freedom of Information requests to the University, as well as all 31 colleges. Of those, 29 replied, with 22 providing files of varying detail.

Alcohol is mentioned as a major factor in over half of cases, and students have been deaned for everything from blue-tack use to racist abuse.

In most cases, students are referred to the Dean of College, who deals with the matter internally. This means punishments are rarely standardised. A University spokesman yesterday refused to confirm whether there were ANY guidelines on college punishments.

It is a misconception that only a University court can send a student down. In exceptional cases, the Dean may consult a disciplinary board, which is entitled to take more serious action.

“A friend of mine was once deaned for standing naked, with a girl who was also naked, kissing her in front of the bedroom window which just so happened to be fully visible to a meeting of Cambridge City Council taking place in the building opposite.

“The shocked members of the board wasted no time in sending an outraged complaint to the college Dean, no doubt in righteous indignation of such a public display, and for some of them perhaps also in that state of speechless disorientation that naturally results from seeing an unwithered pair of breasts for the first time in several years.”

Ben, Kings, third-year

Last week, a Queens’ student was forced to degrade by college for assaulting a fresher at a bop.

The second-year reportedly attacked the fresher after being threatened with a flip flop. The victim required hospital treatment, and his attacker spent the night in police custody.

One friend helpfully added to his Facebook page: ‘Hate to bring this up but you still have ‘Cambridge 2012’ listed as a network.’

The most common punishment, however, is a fine. Murray Edwards are one of the few colleges to adopt a standardised system – a flat fee of £50 for ‘minor misconduct’. Others, like Clare, base their fines on the damage done: from £14 for a cleaning bill, to £120 for a new carpet.

But there are other options in minor cases. Community service has become an increasingly popular option for Deans. Some resort to even more inventive methods: students at Sidney Sussex often have to polish the college silver, and at Robinson, one third-year historian became a bedder for freshers’ week.

The trend for uneven punishments also continues in what constitutes a deanable offence. Homerton reported 45 incidents in the last five years, one of the highest on record.

But students at the college were fined for a number of seemingly trivial offences, including ‘use of blue-tack in college bedroom’, and ‘tampering with flower beds’.

However, there were also some more serious cases: one student was forced to leave college over alleged racist abuse.

And three weeks ago, a fresher was nearly sent down after trying to tip a vending machine onto another student’s head.

“It was probably the quickest deaning on record”, he admitted to The Tab.

Alcohol abuse features heavily in most reports. It is often cited in combination with a breach of noise curfews.

In one incident last year, seven Girton third-years were kicked out of a college house after exams, for repeated damage to the property.

After stealing a college statue, and holding a series of house parties, the group were exiled when initiations on Caesarian Sunday resulted in extensive damage to the house.

“Everyone was kicked out of the house immediately after exams and the ones involved are not allowed to live in college this year”, said one of those involved.

Andrew Jeffries, Girton Senior Tutor, called the behaviour of college drinking societies “abhorrent”, and said the college would deal “severely” with those caught damaging property.

Something to Hide?

Whilst most colleges responded to The Tab’s request, some were not so accommodating. Many colleges, like Corpus and Catz, keep no official record of student discipline, and provided information on an ad hoc basis.

Along with Fitz, Peterhouse, Queens and St. John’s, they argued compiling the information would cost more than £450, the limit of the Act.

Jesus were the only college to argue staff and students’ privacy would be compromised, despite our request for the data to be anonymous.

Bad behaviour is just not restricted to students: 27 staff members have been reprimanded at Pembroke in the last five years, with 22 at Emma.

Offences at the colleges included repeated absence, health and safety violations and aggressive behaviour.

Cauis have sacked ten staff for gross misconduct over the same period, while Corpus have eight written warnings on file for just the past six months.

Next week, we’ll be revealing the worst-behaved colleges in full detail – and posting the files online for you to read.