Reports have reached the Porter’s Log of a tunnel dug underneath Emmanuel College, as students attempt to smuggle in overnight guests under the nose of the ever-watchful porters.
The tunnel was discovered in the early hours of Tuesday morning by a student informer, with the Head Porter escorting the suspects to (even more) solitary confinement under a JCR-staffed armed guard.
This latest development is but one of a series of increasingly convoluted attempts by students to experience a small taste of freedom under the punitive measures implemented by several Cambridge colleges. Rumours abound of porters discovering counterfeit Emmanuel CamCards, marks made by grappling hooks spotted on the walls of Trinity, and even the existence of a full glider made of bed sheets in the rafters of Jesus. King’s College porters also intercepted secret coded messages and escape supplies being smuggled to students in an otherwise innocent-looking Escape from Colditz board game.
“What students don’t understand is these are normal procedures that all colleges are undertaking,” one porter at Trinity College explained to our reporter. “All students are self-isolating, but some are more self-isolating than others.”
Talking to students revealed a different picture. One feared that the three days of non-perishable food she was keeping in her room had a higher chance of survival than her, whilst another had fashioned a friend out of canned lentils to keep him company on the long nights ahead. Others were more sanguine about the measures: we spoke to Marcus Atherton, a mathematician at Trinity college, who said the new measures hadn’t affected him “at all”. He then requested we stopped asking questions as human interaction made him nervous.
Over at Emmanuel College, dismay has turned to fear. Student Disciplinary Tribunals, set up under the auspices of the college and the JCR, rely on student testimony to crack down on those seen to be circumventing the rules. This has led to show-trials as rule-breakers are brought before (socially-distanced) crowds to confess their crimes before facing exile from college. The fear that even your closest friends may turn you in to the authorities has caused a silence to fall over the college. Many students refused to speak to the Porter’s Log, repeating the new college mantra “Big Porter is Watching You” in hushed tones before darting back to their rooms.
The radical action taken by the colleges has pushed students to near breaking point, and term has not even begun. Whilst the measures have their supporters and their detractors, all agree that no college is handling this as poorly as the current government.