Students accuse the Uni of throwing its toys out of the pram in Caesarian Sunday crackdown

Hazel Shearing 29 April 2014

As the crackdown begins on what has been labelled an “offensive and damaging” tradition, students have accused the University’s image-consciousness of sparking unnecessary confrontation over Caesarian Sunday.

In an email to Murray Edwards students at the weekend urging them against attending the traditional drinking event, the College’s Senior Tutor warned students, “There will be a significant police presence on and near Jesus Green this year on Sunday 4th May. Any student committing an offence will be subject not only to the disciplinary rules of the College and of the University but to appropriate police action”.

The email, which described Caesarian Sunday as an “offensive and damaging tradition”, also noted that in the past it has been “the drunken and anti-social conduct of several students” which has led to public complaints and sensationalist press coverage.

This has prompted students from across Cambridge to label the University and police crackdown as an overreaction, given that so few students are responsible for this “anti-social conduct”.

The University has stressed its concern that press coverage of the event in recent years has damaged its reputation. When contacted for comment by The Cambridge Student, a University spokesperson replied with a link to a Daily Mail article published in 2013 with the headline, ‘Thousands of Cambridge University students defy college ban and celebrate annual drinking tradition’. He commented: “The message has been sent out to the student community to try to avoid a further lurid headlines and offence to members of the public.”

However, students have argued that the University’s image-consciousness is the main cause of controversy, which has ultimately blown the event out of proportion.

One Green Monster told TCS , “What I've found so striking this year… is the massive hype the university creates around C Sunday. For the police, it is fundamentally a minor disturbance – much less damaging than a typical Friday or Saturday night. However, because Cambridge is so worried about the image created by the event it feels it must crack down on it. In a sense the police are forced to take something they don't see as very serious – and shouldn't be seen as very serious – very seriously.”

TCS spoke to a Jesus student outside of the Caesarians, who agreed with the Girtonian on this point: “There's nothing "offensive and damaging" except for an increasingly strict attitude from university management and the police. They seem to have forgotten that the best way to deal with students who want to enjoy themselves is to cut them some slack and understand that we set limits on our own behaviour, rather than clamping down… and thereby causing confrontation right from the off.”

Drinking society initiations have been the source of negative media attention in the past. Yet when asked if the event was “offensive and damaging”, one second year historian and drinking society member said, “Much of the initiations will be conducted within college grounds, and unless you count hopping around central Cambridge singing silly songs as such, I fail to see how that description [matches] up.

“It's just one Sunday to get outside and taste fresh air that doesn't smell of old books and the dreadful passive aggression of revision”, he added.

A member of a Corpus drinking society also pointed to what he saw as many wholesome attributes of Caesarian Sunday: “Having a date in the Cambridge calendar after which nobody goes out or drinks hard until after exams is only a good thing. Beneficial to senior tutors and students alike, it represents a university-wide agreement that May is the month for serious working… those few senior tutors who throw their toys out of the pram frankly need to relax. Here's to C-Sunday.”

Some students have advocated peaceful protest as a means to deal with the crackdown. A spokesperson for the Churchill Bull Dogs confirmed to TCS that they would be holding “a C-Sunday protest that mainly involves picnicking and holding hands in a park. The dismantling of university lad culture is the only ‘offensive and damaging’ behaviour we threaten… Observing the college crackdown is a show of submission to the man (/woman), into which we will not be cowed.”