Versa | Oxford amnesia: student scandals from the last 20 years you knew nothing about

Oxford people have short memories, and scandal is often old news in a matter of days. Cheats, racists, and hackers are certainly nothing new: here is a selection of the biggest forgotten dramas of the last twenty years.

It was grim back in the Nineties

The girl who became OUSU President but cheated in her finals and resigned

Katherine Rainwood had it all: a job as President of OUSU ready and waiting, an almost-complete Oxford degree, and a bright future ahead of her. Well, the second two were promising enough, at least.

But one thing she certainly didn’t have was common sense, it seems. Due to a hand injury, her examiners looked kindly on her and she was allowed to sit her finals in a separate room and use her laptop. Somewhat foolishly, she abused the privilege and decided it’d be a good idea to download an old essay. Boom: sent down. 

Rainwood, who was at Hilda’s, was forced to resign her presidency “with great sadness” and issued an apology for letting down the people who had supported her at OUSU.  The uni admitted that it had been caught out by the ‘newish’ issue of technology in exams  – this all occurred back in 1998, when proctoral regulations still allowed the use of typewriters.

So listen up, Becky, Will and Adam: whichever one of you wins, don’t be tempted to cheat. Learn from Kathy R’s mistakes. It ain’t worth it.

The guys who hacked the university CCTV, got sent down, then managed to pull off an appeal

One step ahead since 1991

As several of us here at Versa know, working for The OxStu sometimes gets you into trouble. The award for “Most Controversial OxStu Editor of the Twenty-First Century”, while hotly contested, has to be given to Patrick Foster – who in 2004 successfully circumvented computer security provisions to view a college CCTV feed and the computer usage details of shedloads of fellow students. Along with partner in “crime” Roger Wait, Foster saw the case referred to Thames Valley Police by university big dogs, but the possibility of criminal prosecution was eventually binned altogether.

Before the article was published Foster and Waite actually turned over the evidence they uncovered to the university, leading to a bizarre situation whereby the Proctors were investigating the students based on material the pair had voluntarily handed over in the first place. Foster had his Noughties-style Ethernet connection in his room at Keble taken away from him before he was rusticated, but after successfully appealing he was let off with just a fine.

Where are they now?

Patrick Foster worked for The Times and freelanced for The Guardian, but ended up devoting his life to the kind of journalism hated by the Establishment. Earlier this year, he accepted a police caution after he allegedly hacked the email account of the then-anonymous police officer “Nightjack”. The caution came a full two years after he was originally arrested and bailed, placing him and his family under huge amounts of stress. He wrote: “No one should ever have to suffer the extrajudicial punishment of two years on police bail, and my sympathies are with others still languishing in this invidious position.” Roger Waite went on to work for The Sunday Times.

Personae non gratae

The time when the Union invited Nick Griffin and everyone went OTT

In 2007, the Union asked BNP leader Nick Griffin and Holocaust-denying historian David Irving to speak, and it galvanised some protestors into action. The Guardian said the speaker event “sparked fury”, which basically means a small minority protested  while the vast majority of people went along to a) confirm their suspicions that Griffin is an thoroughly unpleasant character and b) enjoy watching him squirm. The nefarious pair had to be moved into different rooms, but due to the efforts of Union officers, their problematic views were not to be silenced.

Afterwards, Union President Luke Tryl summed up why it was so important that the event took place: “At the end of that David Irving came out looking pathetic … I said in my introduction that I found his views repugnant and abhorrent because I wanted that on record … I think the principle has been proved.” Number of BNP supporters recruited by the Union event: probably 0. Number of seats subsequently won by the BNP in the general election: definitely 0. Bravo.

Where are they now?

Luke Tryl now works for Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary. Nick Griffin, meanwhile, led the BNP into the gutter where it belongs. It would probably have been substantially harder for him to perform this service to society had he not been given high-profile platforms like this one in Union or the subsequent one on Question Time, as on both of these occasions he was able to demonstrate to massive audiences that he is phenomenally stupid.

Tags: BNP — cheating — computer hacking — finals — Sent down — Union