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Blanket fine threatened to entire Halls block unless organisers of gathering come forward

All students in Hiatt Baker C block will face a fine, unless the perpetrators of Saturday's alleged mass lockdown breach come forward.

By Emilie Robinson, Digital News Editor

The fine will impact all students in Hiatt Baker C block unless the organisers of a ‘significant’ gathering of around 150-200 that took place on Saturday come forward.

All students in Hiatt Baker C block will be subject to a fine following reports of a ‘significant breach’ of COVID-19 restrictions, in which one member of staff was assaulted, according to the University.

The incident is alleged to have happened on Saturday 21 November.

In an email, students at Hiatt Baker C block were told they would all be receiving fines ‘unless individuals responsible for organising and promoting the large gathering either come forward or are identified.’

An email has also been sent to students in Badock and the rest of Hiatt Baker, cautioning them too for breaking Covid-19 regulations.

Students were also told to make contact in confidence if they had any information regarding the ‘large gathering’, and that ‘any fine will include the right of appeal.’

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol has said: ‘This is not a decision we have taken lightly but over the past few weeks, particularly at Hiatt Baker and Badock, students have continued to disregard Government and University guidelines around social distancing by holding large gatherings.’

Rent Strike Bristol, however, which has been campaigning for rent reductions, have criticised the blanket approach, saying: ‘While we don’t condone breaches of regulations, this email is clearly highly distressing and threatens financial punishment against students who may not have done anything wrong.

‘This goes completely against what management told us they could hand out fines for, so they’ve lied to us and not been transparent about punitive action.

‘The encouragement for students to essentially ‘rat’ each other out is disgusting at a time when students’ collective mental health is at an all-time low. We hope that the Uni will withdraw this threat and issue [an] apology to all affected.’

A trainee solicitor has also said on Twitter the move ‘doesn't encourage students to follow the rules... Completely irrational and procedurally unfair. What's the point of a route of appeal if you can be fined for following the rules?’

However, the University have said the incident, especially the assault on a member of staff ‘is completely unacceptable, and we would not be fulfilling our duties to protect students, staff and indeed the wider community if we didn’t take action.’

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol added: ‘Students themselves and their families have urged us to take further action to stop this unacceptable behaviour.

‘We have continually reminded students about the vital importance of adhering to the rules and to keep within their own living circles and have re-iterated that we will not hesitate to take disciplinary action if necessary.

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‘After this weekend’s events, we have decided that unless those people who organised and were involved in the gatherings come forward, we will have no choice but to fine entire living circles or blocks.

‘We are genuinely sorry that we have had to do this and appreciate that many students living in Hiatt Baker and Badock are adhering to the rules and will be upset that this has become necessary. We therefore appeal to those responsible to come forward so action can be taken appropriately.

‘If students have proposals or suggestions as to alternative approaches that will stop this unacceptable behaviour we are more than happy to receive these and we will be arranging virtual block meetings over the next few days to engage with students on how we can work together to address the ongoing behavioural concerns.’

Featured: Hiatt Baker | Lucy O'Neill / Epigram

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