Oxford University chiefs are threatening to scrap posh ‘Deans’ Dinners’ after light-fingered students have been helping themselves to cutlery from the high-brow events.
Toff students at posh Magdalen College have pinched a catalogue of items, including decanters, crystal punch bowls, side plates and expensive silverware.
Now the deans of the college, whose former students include Chancellor George Osborne, are threatening to stop future events unless the property is returned.
University chiefs admit to “turning a blind eye” to the petty thefts in the past but they have now lost patience.
A letter sent out to the Junior Common Room (JCR) after the Deans’ Dinner last week, stated: “This evening saw the last Deans’ Dinner of the year.
“Over the past few months we have invited all first-year undergraduates to dine in the New Room as our guests.
“At each dinner several decanters, stoppers, and other items of college property have been removed without permission.
“We would be grateful if these items could now be returned. The same applies to any items removed in previous years.
“Often, as tonight, it has been obvious what has been happening, but we have turned a blind eye to those involved on the assumption that these items would be returned quickly and safely.”
The letter added that stolen items could be left anonymously outside the door of the Senior Dean.
It concluded: “If we do not receive the removed items we will have to consider whether we should continue to hold these dinners next year.”
JCR President Millie Ross said culprits could be punished.
Writing on the JCR Facebook group she said: “The staff often note who they spot with what (you’re less subtle than you think!) so I wouldn’t take the risk if I were you.
“It’s fine as a harmless prank of course, and it is a bit of a tradition now, but if the stuff isn’t returned they won’t be able to host them next year and that would be such a shame for the next cohort.
“They are even still missing big items like fruit bowls and decanters.”
The row comes three months after Magdalen students boycotted the dining hall in a “strike” against plans to force undergraduates to pay #150 a year extra for meals.
First year English student Frank Lawton said: “Other than the small matter of it technically being theft it seems to be to be a great and noble tradition.
“After all, I feel like I’ve been robbed every time I open my battels sheets, it’s only fair that we even up the score now and then.
“Furthermore, I thought university encouraged education and equipping us with the skills we’ll need for our careers?
“Personally I would like to be a bank robber or a high profile art thief.”
A first year historian said: “I think traditions like this are great as long as they’re just a bit of fun and don’t end up costing the college or depriving others in the future.
“I myself, along with many others, removed a rather large number of items on Friday night, which I returned to the Deans over the weekend.
“I was impressed when returning my decanters to find an antique table and a silver tray had also been left there.”
“I can understand why it was necessary to request that the items be returned but I very much enjoyed the dinner and hope they will be held in the future; and they wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun without the added thrill of everyone trying to subtly cram cutlery and tableware into their pockets.”