Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope criticises ‘C-Sunday’ events as ‘a slap in the face’

The Vice-Chancellor expressed his disappointment in a mass email to students

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Stephen Toope, described the student gathering on Jesus Green for Caesarean Sunday as “disappointing” and “a slap in the face” in an email sent to students yesterday (05/05).

Caesarean Sunday, aka ‘C Sunday’, is named after Jesus College’s drinking society, The Caesareans, and historically included a fight between Jesus drinking society and the Girton Green Monsters, an aspect of the event which has now been banned.

The 80-year-old event takes place on the Sunday of the May Bank Holiday at the start of Easter term, and also normally represents the last big event of the academic year before exam season.

Toope said that it was “because student behaviour has so far been exemplary that the mass student gathering on Jesus Green […] was so disappointing”, taking place “in contravention of the explicit advice from College” and “in clear breach of all the public health measures designed to prevent the transmission of disease.” Some news outlets estimated that 3,000 students were present at the event.

He added that “even at the best of times”, the C Sunday gathering causes “unnecessary difficulties for the local Cambridge community”, but that “gathering in such numbers in the current circumstances is deeply irresponsible.”

The attendance of so many students had, Toope warned, tarnished the reputation of Cambridge students as “good citizens” and “undermined the effectiveness of any public health messaging aimed at the wider community.” He termed this behaviour “unacceptable.”

Students gathered on Jesus Green to mark ‘C Sunday’ (Photo Credit: Rosie Smart-Knight)

The Vice-Chancellor said that he understands people’s “frustration”, and their “desire to re-connect with others” and “let off some steam after a challenging year”, but implored students to “act responsibly” and “be especially vigilant” to prevent any increased transmission or infection rates.

He asked students to “stringently observe the guidelines that are in place for your protection and for the protection of the wider community” and to continue participating in the University’s asymptomatic testing programme.

Toope concluded his email with a plea to students, asking them not to “let down [their] guards and engage in risky behaviour” at a time when we are now starting to “see some light at the end of the tunnel”, stating that “the University and the Colleges are counting on you all to show Cambridge at its best.”

An article from The Tab Cambridge from 2018 notes that C Sunday is “every Daily Mail photographer’s dream and Senior Tutor’s nightmare”, as the event normally gains attention from tabloid newspapers and criticism for the “anti-social” behaviour of attendees.

The University had sent an email the week before warning students against attending the 80 year old event in light of COVID restrictions and concerns.

Feature image credit: Rosie Smart-Knight