St. Cuthbert’s Society has upheld its decision to ban its Men’s Rugby Club from competitive matches this term after an unsuccessful appeal was made to the university.
The ban was imposed in the wake of a social organised by the club on Thursday 25 October starting in Cuth’s bar that toured the bars of the hill colleges St. Aidan’s, Grey and Van Mildert. Grey issued a complaint about the behaviour of the social after a plant pot was broken and a member of the Cuth’s team set off a fire alarm.
The social adopted a theme based around disgraced BBC presenter Jimmy Savile as part of an annual ‘current affairs’ social, with the topic chosen traditionally of a tasteless nature. The freshers were dressed as young girls, while the second years wore Jimmy Savile costumes and the third and fourth years came as BBC Panorama reporters and law enforcement officers.
According to the college, the Rugby Club had surrendered their privilege to play after not demonstrating behaviour consistent with accepted values and principles.
Alongside the ban each participant has been fined £50 each, with proceeds going towards the upkeep of the Society’s garden. The social secretaries and club captain will serve 20 hours of community service. Though their initial ban from Cuth’s bar has been lifted, the players have been indefinitely barred from Grey College bar.
As a result of this decision Cuth’s A and B teams, who both compete in the college rugby premiership, will remain banned for the remainder of the term from playing any matches in the league or the Floodlit Cup.
The Club had appealed to the university against their college’s ban because they felt that they had “been unfairly treated compared to another student” (as stipulated on page 32 of the College Handbook). The appeal was made on the grounds that a day after the Cuths’ social, the Hatfield Darts Team had gone on a social with a similar theme and had received one-hour community service as punishment.
However the university rejected the appeal on the grounds that they did not provide sufficient evidence that the Hatfield case was comparable to theirs. Nor did the university consider that they proved the Hatfield team’s punishment was right and thus could be used as a benchmark measure.
One member of Cuth’s rugby declared himself “disillusioned with the appeals process”. He claimed that after their request to appeal was received by Cuth’s Vice Principal, Sharon Richardson, the Rugby Club were not consulted at any point during the process and were not given a chance to put forward their argument personally.
He also considered the club to have been unfairly used to make an example of. “Playing bans are unprecedented. Other colleges such as Hild Bede have had numerous disciplinary hearings, while the university rugby club DURFC have been involved in several serious incidents that have not resulted in playing bans. Would DURFC ever be banned from playing? Absolutely not,” he argued.
The decision to ban the club was met with approval from some members of the student body. One observer commented on the Durham Feminist Forum‘s facebook page, “wow, I’m impressed that it’s being taken seriously, didn’t expect anything to be done”.