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Current Affairs

St Catherine’s College issues U-turn over body camera threat

St Catherine’s College has issued a statement to The Oxford Blue indicating an apparent reversal of its earlier decision to issue body cameras to its junior deans and porters. 

Previously, the College had announced it would issue body cameras to junior deans and porters “with immediate effect” to “identify individuals in breach of regulations”. However, in its new statement, the college appears to soften this position, indicating that it will only introduce body cameras “if exceptional circumstances do arise […] and, if the situation requires it”.

The full statement reads: “St Catherine’s College fully condemns the disgraceful and unacceptable behaviour of a small number of students on its premises last weekend. The vast majority of our students are committed to ensuring that College remains a safe and respectful place for all, but those found to be in serious breach of our rules can expect serious disciplinary measures. We do not expect a repeat of this behaviour, but if exceptional circumstances do arise, we will make sure that we know who is involved and, if the situation requires it, we will make body cameras available for use by Junior Deans and Porters”.

This statement comes after the college had announced that it was providing porters and junior deans with body cameras to enable them to “identify individuals in breach of regulations”. The original decision came after a large congregation of students “in the JCR and marquee, […] in total disregard of social distancing rules and other other College and Covid-19 regulations.” When approached, students refused to give their names or disperse until police involvement was threatened, and a few are reported to have coughed in the direction of the junior deans when asked to leave.

After referencing the breach of regulations, the original email suggested that the Dean felt they had “no choice but to hold all members of the JCR responsible”. It goes on to say that, “the College will take strong action against all of the persons involved in incidents of this type, regardless of whether it is their first offence”.

Students caught in breach of regulations faced a variety of consequences, including, “reporting to the University proctors or public authorities, formal censure on their academic record (for later reference to professional bodies and potential employers), loss of College scholarships […], suspension, and in the most serious cases termination of the College membership.”

The new statement further appears to reflect a reversal in two key areas. The original email held all JCR members responsible, while the new statement specifies that the “vast majority of our students are committed to ensuring that College remains a safe and respectful place for all”. Moreover, while the original email implied that any breach of regulations risked the involvement of the police, the new statement declares that only “serious breaches” will be treated in that manner.

St Catherine’s College has been contacted for comment

Zaman Keinath-Esmail

Zaman Keinath-Esmail (she/her) is an Opinion Editor at The Oxford Blue. She studies Physics, sits on various society and college committees, and generally advocates for equal rights for everyone. When not in Oxford, she can be found in Washington, DC.