Oxford University is facing a backlash after two of its proctors suggested student generosity was behind a rise in homelessness.
In an email seen by HuffPost UK, Profs Mark Edwards and Cecile Fabre wrote that the numbers of people sleeping rough in the city was a result of students’ “highly developed social conscience”.
Their comments came as part of a warning against so-called “trashing” – an extravagant practice in which final-year scholars cover themselves with food and champagne to mark the end of exams.
Linking the controversial celebration with the plight of the local homeless population, the proctors said: “Needless waste of food is an aggravation of their distress.”
Students criticised the email on social media.
Just been forwarded this email from Oxford University senior management, in which they claim the city’s acute homelessness problem is because homeless people come here to take advantage of generous students. pic.twitter.com/3q185P5K25
— Neha Shah (@nehashah_) June 12, 2018
The email went on to warn against conduct which presented Oxford as “one giant Bullingdon Club” and suggested the cost of cleaning up after student celebrations would provide “welcome bursaries” for underprivileged minorities.
Defending his choice of words, Prof Edwards told Oxford student newspaper Cherwell: “It is an easily ascertainable fact that there are more homeless people on the streets of Oxford than on the streets of most comparably-sized towns in England.”
Oxford City Council estimated the number of people regularly sleeping rough in the city doubled in a single year.
It said 89 people were feared to be homeless in 2017, up from 47 in 2016.
Oxford University has said “trashing” is against its code of conduct and could lead to a £300 fine.
A spokesperson added: “The overall intention of the proctors was to appeal to the social and environmental consciences of Oxford students, urging them to consider the impact of the waste and inconvenience caused by trashing.”