Flaming Freshers, Tabloid Outrage and Prank Calls: TCS rounds up Caesarian Sunday.

Ian Johnston 2 May 2016

Yesterday, thousands of Cambridge students descended on Jesus Green for the annual celebration of Caesarian Sunday. The event is traditionally held as a final celebration before exams. In recent years, it has also become a tradition for the tabloid press to join the partygoers and depict all Cambridge students as ‘boozed up toffs’ in the national press.

Their stereotyping was fuelled yesterday when initiations for the Sidney Sussex Roundheads drinking society went horribly wrong. Freshers being initiated dressed as sheep for the day, accompanied by older students in shepherd costumes. However, at 2:53pm, one of the Freshers was set on fire. Reportedly, the student’s cotton-wool costume had been doused in vodka, making it highly flammable. He was set alight by a friend messing about with a lighter.

In attempts to help their friend, drunken companions proceeded to throw alcohol on him. He then threw himself into the Cam in order to douse the flames. He was taken to A&E where he and two other friends are being treated for burns.

The event became the focal point for the Daily Mail’s report of yesterday’s events. They quoted students apparently disgusted by the celebrations. ‘Marcus Atherton’ told them

‘I was really shocked and quite disgusted by a lot of the people on the green today. I was just there for a quiet drink but it was carnage. There was nudity, people throwing beer and bottles at each other. I have nothing against drinking societies but this is a lot worse than last year.’

However, this ‘Marcus Atherton’ was none other than the fictional character who appears as a regular feature in the Porters’ Log articles. Editors of the satirical website had phoned Daily Mail reporter Imogen Calderwood. They gave her an outraged account of the proceedings, using the stereotypes frequently employed in the tabloid press: drunkenness, nudity and excessively-privileged students.

Speaking to Varsity, the Editor of the website commented: It’s beyond a joke, it’s not even funny. Everyone knows the kind of story the Daily Mail wants to run on Caesarian Sunday, because it’s the same thing year in, year out.”

They clarified their intentions in running the prank phone call:

“To be clear, we’re not defending drinking societies or lad culture, we just object to everyone being tarred with the same brush. Some people at Jesus Green were just there for a quiet drink.”

The Daily Mail has since removed Marcus Atherton’s comments from the website. However, the failure of the tabloid to check its sources is evidence of the newspaper’s willingness to tar Cambridge’s reputation. Many students on Jesus Green ridiculed the paper’s traditionally biased coverage, wearing copies of the paper stuck to their clothes and “I <3 the Daily Mail” t-shirts.