A Fine Mess – Newnham Bites Back

Nenwham students have had enough after huge college fines have left a hole in their pockets.

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Newnham College is under fire after students expressed their outrage at years of excessive and unwarranted fining.

From 2009-11 the college scooped up an astonishing £25,383.44 in fines from its students. Over half of these fines were for housekeeping costs. Dissatisfaction with the fining regime led to the JCR prompting a review of the draconian system.

The college, which does not employ bedders, claims to apply the fines to pay for temporary cleaning staff. But the fines have been slammed for being too steep, difficult to contest and applied without good reason.

Fresher Becky Wetten was fined over £50 for her first term in Cambridge.

Becky told The Tab “I was truly baffled- I saw the total cost: £51…” This included £30 for leaving clothes locked in a cupboard.

Another anonymous student provided The Tab with her college bill. She was fined over £100 for last term, much of which she felt was unjustified:

Click to enlarge

Students are especially frustrated because they feel there is no way to challenge the fines, though Newnham’s Bursar told The Tab that they have always been contestable.

Becky said  “I appealed to Housekeeping the day after I’d arrived and spoke to a terrifying German lady who I couldn’t have been more afraid of if she’d been wearing Viking horns and a bloodied nightdress. It was instantly clear that negotiation is a Nein-Nein.”

An anonymous second told The Tab “They say that fines are based on the amount of time the cleaners need to clean the room- if the cleaners are being paid £5 for 15 seconds’ work then at least I can get a fantastically well-paid job in Newnham when I graduate if all else falls through!”

Fresher Frankie Rogers said “I think Newnham’s fining policy is ridiculous. They’re always trying to sneakily take extra money from us, and not just from the housekeeping fines.”

Information acquired by The Tab under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that over the last two academic years, Newnham has accrued a total of £25, 383.44 from fining its students. Over £4,000 was levied in housekeeping fines in June 2010 alone.

Newnham’s fines between Oct ’09 and June ’11 (click to enlarge)

Commenting on the figures, JCR President Helen Hoogewerf-McComb’s told The Tab that £25,000 figure “seems higher than I would have anticipated.

“The JCR agrees with the principles of the current fining system but there are some obvious issues which can result in fines being applied unfairly… we are currently in discussions to try to resolve those issues highlighted by the student body…”

“Some changes are already in place for the end of this term.”

Individual fines have been revised and efforts have been made to cap fines for offences such as open windows and locked drawers.

But since the new regime won’t take effect until Newnhamites leave for the holidays, it is unclear whether the changes will have a real impact in reducing fines.

Newnham’s Bursar, Ian du Quesnay, told The Tab “Following the Lent Term meeting of the Joint Committee, the Domestic Bursar has reviewed both the scale of fines and the inspection process with the JCR and new procedures have been agreed… The effect of the changes will be monitored through the Joint Committee.”

As term comes to an end, it remains to be seen whether the new regime will leave Newnham’s population feeling fine or still strapped for cash.