“You will be fined” if you’re caught trashing, was the message from Oxford University to students planning to celebrate the end of their exams by getting covered with confetti and foam. But despite warnings that the ban would be “strictly enforced”, only eight students were fined during the 2021-22 academic year.
The University says that trashing reinforces negative stereotypes about Oxford students by wasting food and damaging the local environment, and costs £45,000 to clean up each year. Trashing also violates clauses in the University Code of Discipline, which prohibits littering and “defacing property”.
Students who were caught would be fined £150, which would go to the student hardship fund. However, the Oxford University Student Union condemned the move, arguing the punishment would have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged students.
The “Exams: Celebrate Sustainably” campaign encouraged students to find alternate ways to celebrate. Suggestions included going to a pub or restaurant, or planning a day out with friends. The campaign received national press attention after Cherwell reported in May that the first three fines had been issued. One of these students said they had not been trashing, and had merely poured “roughly a teaspoon of lubricant” on their friend’s head. The student appealed, claiming they had not committed any offenses listed in the Code of Disciple, but was rejected.
Despite the ban, numerous JCRs provide trashing equipment for students to use. Some of this equipment, provided by EcoTrash, claims to be biodegradable. The company says that in Trinity 2022 it sold over 4,400 bags of coloured powder, and 2,600 bags of biodegradable confetti.
A University spokesperson said: “’It is hugely encouraging that the vast majority of the student body chose to mark the end of their exams in a sustainable and respectful way.” They added that the University will continue to campaign against trashing in the 2022-23 academic year.
A similar campaign was run in 2020-21, but a request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that not a single student was fined as a result.
Image credit: Robert Nyas via Creative Commons