Derwent’s ‘Nicked’ campaign causes controversy

Agatha Torrance

Agatha Torrance

A large number of Derwent students have reacted angrily after their College Welfare team launched its ‘Nicked’ campaign.
The college’s Chair and Welfare representatives checked approximately 100 student bedrooms, and entered 45 per cent of rooms that were left unlocked, placing stickers on items to demonstrate that they could have been stolen.

The JCRC members involved did not remove students belongings and were in the room for a couple of seconds. However when the results were announced, via the scheme’s Facebook group, there was a widely critical response from students.

Francesca Knight, the Derwent JCRC Chair, along with Katy Tinman and Benjamin Clynes, the college’s Welfare reps, inspected the rooms between 5:30 and 7:30 in the evening, during Derwent’s dining hours. The initiative was an attempt to improve personal security around the college, after a YUSU survey revealed that 35 per cent of Derwent students feel unsafe.

The campaign is similar to a number of projects run by the police nationally and by other Universities and Students’ Unions. The JCRC knocked on every door, and only tried to open the door if there was no response.

Derwent’s current JCRC are pushing the University for improvements to security. Currently all requests for better lighting and CCTV cameras have been rejected by the University, on the grounds that residents do not maintain the basic security of keeping the doors to their blocks or rooms locked.

Tinman, the Wefare Representative, commented: “All Derwent students need to be aware that this was a campaign intended to promote personal safety and security within the college without raising vulnerability or compromising any of the current security measures. Myself, Cesca and Ben did not wish to upset any students – this was ultimately done to improve student welfare.”

The campaign had the full support of Derwent’s provost Rob Aitken, as well as campus security and YUSU. Students were warned by the Provost that their insurance was invalid if rooms were unlocked.

Critics of the campaign have cited the Terms and Conditions of Residence, in which University staff have to give 48 hours’ notice of any visits. In response, Derwent’s administrator, Chris Unwin commented on the Facebook group: “If we had done this, everyone would have been aware in advance of what was going on, there would have been no element of surprise.”

Francesca Knight has adamantly defended the campaign. “We found a laptop that was clearly visible in every room we went in, and also saw some keys and key cards lying around. Bearing in mind we ran in and ran out in a few seconds it is scary how quickly these things could have been taken.

It was suggested that we do something within the college to show we are doing our bit to promote personal safety and college security in order to back up our pleas to the university for more cameras in the college nucleus”.

A second-year Derwent student posted on the Facebook page: “There is stuff people keep in their room that they don’t want others to see. In my opinion, that counts for more of a welfare loss than a welfare gain – how can people with serious issues trust the Welfare reps, knowing [they’ve] walked into their room when they weren’t there. The aim is understandable but the way this has been carried out really isn’t.”

Provost Rob Aitken said he was “disappointed in the comments on the Nicked Facebook events page particularly those from 2nd years from whom I would have expected a more responsible attitude.”

Bob Hughes, YUSU Welfare Officer, expressed his delight at the campaigns initiative: “Personal belongings can be stolen in a matter of seconds. Hard-hitting campaigns like this can sometimes be shocking, but students are talking about security now, and if more students start locking their doors as a result, then I call that a big success.

Hughes confirmed that YUSU will review the college’s campaign but hopes, “that these important and shocking findings will add weight and immediacy to the University’s actions.”


  1. This Flavio fella sounds like a top bloke

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  2. Just to offer some further insight on this, through getting involved in this issue over the past few days, I’ve been accused of both attacking something which doesn’t involve me directly and of criticising people that have good intentions.

    Yesterday, me and four other critics of this campaign met with Rob Aitken and the College Tutor to discuss our problems with it, and to be honest we weren’t overly impressed with the meeting’s outcome.

    One point we made is that we didn’t understand why college administration felt it suitable to allow students of all people rather than porters or security staff (who are detached from the Derwent student body) to carry this campaign out, to which we were met with the reply: “I didn’t allow them, I just didn’t not allow them” and they didn’t send porters or security staff “because then it would appear it was officially university approved”.

    We then raised the point that despite Francesca, Katy and Ben not actually having an interest in what students had in their rooms (which we do believe), it didn’t justify them entering. The examples I made (which were also made on the facebook page but haven’t been quoted) are those of students who may have personal medical conditions and have left their medication on their desk, or perhaps alcoholics with empty bottles in their rooms. What if perhaps there was gay pornography on their laptop screens whilst they’d left their rooms to go to the toilet?

    Just because the JCRC members don’t care about what’s in student rooms, doesn’t mean these students don’t mind the JCRC members seeing it. And a point was raised about how they wouldn’t have been able to tell whose room was whose by the amount they went through. Well think how many students have photographs of themselves on their walls – it’s more than just a handful.

    The reply I got back was “Students concerned about their privacy will have locked their doors”. Bit of an unfounded assumption, and besides, it only takes one of these students concerned to have slipped up for their welfare to be compromised.

    Rob stated that he would rather convince students to take their security seriously by unconventional methods rather than have to section off Derwent blocks floor by floor to improve security, but we pointed out that they didn’t have any proof there’d been a positive result, because they haven’t checked since if doors are being locked.

    The main point people in favour of this campaign have been arguing is “If they left their doors unlocked, they shouldn’t have a problem with people going into their rooms”. Yes they should – it’s trespassing. Whether unlocked or not, those who went in had no right to and by law can be prosecuted for it, as can College administration for allowing them to (or in this case, not disallowing them to – essentially the same thing).

    This offers further insight:

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  3. The stone cold fact is that with the permission of the college administration, JCR members were allowed to trespass upon and invade the privacy of students. Any sensitive items could have been left out: gay porn (for those who didn’t want their peers aware of their sexuality), medication, or personal photographs.

    Regardless of the necessity for improving security (which everybody accepts)and dismissive comments from the Derwent upper echelons, this isn’t acceptable. It’s just not. You do not invade the privacy of students just for the sake of making a point. There is no dodging around that, despite Nouse and Derwent’s best efforts.

    Spread the word folks. This isn’t on.

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  4. Oh and re: “The campaign is similar to a number of projects run by the police nationally” it was run once by Essex police, to a fair bit of outcry, leading them to say they had no intention of doing it again. As it happens, as official arbiters of the law, the police aren’t normally dumb enough to break it.

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  5. In light of Flavio’s argument, take a look through the terms and conditions we agree to when we accept University accommodation. The most worrying thing is that, with these terms are stacked very heavily in favour of the University, I’m sure the majority have never bothered don’t actually know what they signed up for.

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  6. Don’t attack the JCRC about this. They were told to do something to raise student awareness so that the University will consider investing money to help PROTECT THE SAFETY OF DERWENT STUDENTS. (Which surely is the most important point here). So, with the permission of the University, they did.

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  7. 13 Mar ’12 at 5:18 pm

    Halifax 3rd Year

    Derwent? Who cares

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  8. @E

    Considering it was members of the JCRC that did it, we’ve got every right to to attack them. Just because higher authorities tell them it’s ok to do so, it doesn’t excuse them from carrying it out.

    What if they were told it’s ok to smash every laptop in every room they found by college administration? If they did it, they’re pretty obviously just as liable as those who told them to do it, so this case isn’t any different.

    And sadly you’ve fallen into the mindset of thinking that in doing something with the aim of improving security, it’s justified no matter what they did to do so. Do you really think it’s the only way they could have done so?

    Besides, whatever their aims are they’ve BROKEN THE LAW. Is that not a valid enough point for attacking them?

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  9. @E – don’t attack the JCR? It was their idea to invade privacy. They were given permission by the university, so the buck stops with them, but that doesn’t mean that the JCR shouldn’t get criticism for what are fairly reprehensible actions.

    I wish people would stop saying the important point is security. It really isn’t. Increase in security vs invasion of privacy is a false dichotomy. It’s more a case of possible, alleged increase in security, vs invasion of privacy. We should stop thinking that it has even been a success.To be honest, whichever of them two you use, the see-saw should still be weighed much more heavily to the privacy side.

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  10. what a load of rubbish people are up in arms, because people are promoting how easy it is to be robed when you leave doors unlocked. If nothing had have been done and someone’s room was burgled then the same people up in arms at the moment would no doubt be complaining about a lack of security. With people like this around no one is ever going to win, it’s just an excuse to complain and jump on the moral high horse.

    really get a life, they are looking out for Derwent.

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  11. 13 Mar ’12 at 9:56 pm

    Clive the Criminal

    Guess I know where I’ll be spending the next few nights…

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  12. The position of Derwent JCRC, Rob Aitken, YUSU and apparently Nouse, is that the increase in security justifies breaching the rights of students. By this logic the JCRC would have been justified going into unlocked rooms and smashing up student’s property (it certainly would make me lock my door). None of the people/institutions listed earlier would even contemplate smashing a student’s property because it is quite clearly illegal and wrong. There are lines that you do not cross and these are set out in law; trespassing is one of them.

    Perhaps you believe that students have no right to privacy if they leave their doors unlocked. The problem is that the law and the government disagree. Entering someone’s room without permission, regardless of whether or not it is secured, is a civil offence. The University has no right to try and balance security with civil liberties: you broke the law.

    We are not demanding anything unreasonable or malicious. All we want is an apology from those listed above and an absolute assurance that it will never happen again.

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  13. notgonna lie, who actually thught it was a good idea to do this? notice on the door saying your stuff would hvae been nicked is a good idea, going in and sticking things on your valuables, not so much.

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  14. I think that this is a brilliant idea! I don’t understand why everyone is bothered about it. Many a time in first year maintenance staff accessed my room to repair things without me knowing they were going to because I hadn’t read an e-mail or notice that they were coming.

    This whole ‘invasion of privacy’ is rubbish! Do you think they really care that the guy/girl in room 7 is on meds? No. I forget of course that it’s a prerequisite for members of the JCRC to memorise every member of their college and their room number…Oh wait! It’s not!. But of course, those pictures on their walls are just going to be photos of them and no one else! And that photo on their desk with middle-aged couple and a teenager couldn’t possibly be their parents and sibling!

    As James Carney very helpfully posted

    27.1 – “…. In the case of an emergency or
    a breach of clause 20, entry may be at any time”

    What is clause 20?

    20.3.4 “locking the door to your Accommodation together with any corridor and main entrance doors in the Residence when entering or leaving and ensuring that all windows in the Accommodation are locked before you go out;”

    So if they knocked and no-one answered then presumably they were out? Then if they were able to open the door because it unlocked then the person hadn’t locked their door and was in breach of 20.3.4 which means that clause 27.1 is in effect.

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  15. B – I think I love you.

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  16. B you have just made all the people looking for something to complain about look very silly, what a hero.

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  17. 15 Mar ’12 at 9:32 pm

    Oliver Blackburn

    @Tom Hancock.

    You clearly do not understand basic logic if you thing this:
    “The position of Derwent JCRC, Rob Aitken, YUSU and apparently Nouse, is that the increase in security justifies breaching the rights of students. By this logic the JCRC would have been justified going into unlocked rooms and smashing up student’s property (it certainly would make me lock my door).”

    The actions of the JCRC make it more likely that students will lock their doors, increasing security; this happens at very little cost (only some hurt feelings and annoyance). The net effect is beneficial.

    Your example would mean increasing security (via locked doors) at a huge cost in materials (the smashed goods) and probably the welbeing of the community (shit would hit the fan on the hurt feelings front). This os obviously not desirable.

    The situations are vastly different, and the logic applied to the first scenario is clearly not applicable in the second.

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  18. @Oliver Blackburn

    “The actions of the JCRC make it more likely that students will lock their doors, increasing security; this happens at very little cost (only some hurt feelings and annoyance). The net effect is beneficial.”

    What a good idea! Fuck small laws, they are ok to break. But why stop there? Why stop at just breaking a really small law such as trespassing? Why not go to a criminals house and assault him to deter other criminals? That surely will bring about a larger “beneficial net effect”.

    We have a name for your counter in the academic world, its called a slippery slope argument.

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  19. @Oliver

    You appear to have confused basic logic with utilitarianism.

    I do not believe that a perceived increase in utility (or beneficial net effect, as you put it) justifies the actions of the JCRC. To put it bluntly, the ends does not justify the means. We have a set of rights that cannot be broken even if it would bring some overall benefit; privacy is one of these rights.

    The point I was making in my earlier post was that student’s right to privacy had been breached in the name of security and I drew comparison to a hypothetical scenario in which student’s right to property was being breached instead. The second example seemed more shocking but the point is that in both scenarios the actions of the JCRC are wrong because of the breach of rights, not the loss of utility.

    Incidentally if you really did want to balance privacy and security, it should be noted that there haven’t actually been any thefts and there is no evidence that these measures have improved security.

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  20. 20 Mar ’12 at 4:34 am

    Ben McGladdery

    Here’s a cheeky ‘end of the day’ style argument.

    Had a genuine thief come in and stolen your laptop, or your personal possessions whatever they may be, would you:

    A. Report a THEFT to the police?
    B. Report an invasion of privacy?

    I think we can safely say you’d be more pissed off about part A.

    So when this smart initiative was launched, pointing out the flaws in students personal security, and making light of how we are all guilty of bin a little bit complacent about locking our doors, some peoples reactions was to complain about B. as that’s all they had to complain about…..and because they love complaining rather than accepting responsibility.

    As far as privacy goes, here’s the compromise. Maybe they could have stuck a note on the door, ” I would have nicked everything” or something of that nature. The sheer fact they didn’t has made this campaign more infamous and therefore much more effective. All the better =D

    Well done to Francesca Knight, Katy Tinman and Benjamin Clynes. You’ve done a brilliant job there. X

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  21. As someone who has actually been broken into and had a laptop nicked, I can definitely say that B hurts more than A – the idea that someone broke into my house and rifled through my things is a lot worse than having to make an insurance claim for a laptop.

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  22. 20 Mar ’12 at 11:07 pm

    Ben McGladdery

    sigh…this could go on a while couldn’t it. argument after argument. example after example. Poor argument after poor argument.

    @CN, fair point. I accept that you’re quite possibly right in that respect. The only thing I could say is that in this instance the invaders were not faceless strangers but welfare representatives, with your security at heart. I’ll say no more on that, I’ve never been burgled so I can’t comment.

    The equivalent when I was a first year (still is as far as I can see!) is if you left your door unlocked you got a comedy frape. Something suggesting that you loved things you perhaps possibly didn’t. Post it notes are much kinder socially than my flatmates suggesting to my friends and family how much I love it up the…..”ahem”….well. Never mind.


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  23. Manufactured outrage all round. Grow up and lock your doors, how hard is that?

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  24. Those who complain that a note could have been left on the door saying something along the lines of: ”I would have nicked everything”, that would have encouraged anyone walking around the block to go in and steal from your room anyway! Great initiative, well done Derwent JCRC. People are kicking up a fuss because they’re annoyed at being caught out.

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  25. I used to reside in Goodricke College in 05/06 and remember them running a similar scheme.

    How did we feel about it? We didn’t care. If its your room take care of it and lock your door, that way your gay porn stash is safe. In the real world you don’t have a welfare team to watch your back so appreciate that someone is selfless enough to care anout your well being. It sounds to me like a lot of teenagers are getting stroppy and forgetting that they aren’t at home anymore and mummy isn’t going to do it for you.

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  26. 10 Oct ’15 at 8:08 pm

    Mabelle Whipp

    You are my inspiration, I possess few web logs and often run out from post :). “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.” by Frederick Douglas.

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