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Jonathan Epstein has published 16 articles

Crockery crooks at Magdalen

Magdalen College deans threaten to end Deans’ Dinner following thefts of college crockery
Jonathan Epstein on Friday 22nd February 2013
Photograph: Camille van Zadelhoff

The deans of Magdalen College have attempted to curtail thefts of college crockery by first years at Deans’ Din­ner, threatening to not hold the din­ner for future first years.

A letter sent out to the JCR stated, “This evening saw the last Deans’ Dinner of the year. Over the past few months we have invited all first-year undergraduates to dine in the New Room as our guests. At each din­ner several decanters, stoppers, and other items of College property have been removed without permission.

“We would be grateful if these items could now be returned. The same applies to any items removed in previous years. Often, as tonight, it has been obvious what has been happening, but we have turned a blind eye to those involved on the as­sumption that these items would be returned quickly and safely.”

The letter added that stolen items could be left anonymously outside the door of the Senior Dean in a sort of amnesty programme. It conclud­ed, “If we do not receive the removed items we will have to consider wheth­er we should continue to hold these dinners next year.”

JCR President Millie Ross implied that individuals could be punished as well, writing on the JCR Facebook group, “the staff often note who they spot with what (you’re less subtle than you think!) so I wouldn’t take the risk if I were you. It’s fine as a harmless prank of course, and it is a bit of a tradition now, but if the stuff isn’t returned they won’t be able to host them next year and that would be such a shame for the next cohort.”

She later wrote, “The Deans have notified me that if they don’t have the items back from Deans’ Dinner TODAY then they will have to believe they were stolen (rather than taken as a prank) and act accordingly. They are even still missing big items like fruit bowls and decanters.”

First year English student Frank Lawton quipped, “Other than the small matter of it technically being theft it seems to be to be a great and noble tradition. After all, I feel like I’ve been robbed every time I open my battels sheets, it’s only fair that we even up the score now and then. Furthermore, I thought University encouraged education and equip­ping us with the skills we’ll need for our careers? Personally I would like to be a bank robber or a high profile art thief.

“Dean’s Dinner is essentially glori­fied fieldwork for such aspirants. The full dining set was an impressive ac­complishment, although I think try­ing to steal the Deans themselves was pushing it a bit too far. But I guess that’s all just part of the learning curve.”

A first year historian commented, “I think traditions like this are great as long as they’re just a bit of fun and don’t end up costing the college or depriving others in the future. I myself, along with many others, removed a rather large number of items on Friday night, which I re­turned to the Deans over the week­end. I was impressed when returning my decanters to find an antique table and a silver tray had also been left there."

"I can understand why it was necessary to request that the items be returned but I very much enjoyed the dinner and hope they will be held in the future; and they wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun without the added thrill of everyone trying to subtly cram cutlery and tableware into their pockets!”

In an email to the JCR on Monday, Ross reported, “the Deans are very pleased to see a large majority of the items returned and it’s unlikely they’ll have to take any further ac­tion!”

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