Cambridge University college hiring new cleaners after messy room photos sparked student fury

Exclusive: The college is looking to fill multiple positions

Emma Guinness
Thursday 25 April 2024 13:37 BST
(Universal Images Group/Getty)

A college at Cambridge University is hiring new cleaners after pictures of students’ messy bedrooms and kitchens were distributed without consent.

The incident took place last Wednesday, 17 April, Varsity reported, when the college cleaners sent out a mass email containing the apparently damning pictures.

It slammed the students for their cleanliness levels and described the attached pictures as “an illustration of what housekeeping DO NOT want to see on their weekly visits.”

While the email has now reportedly been deleted from the university’s servers, students affected by the cleaners’ actions have spoken out.

One of the students dubbed it a “massive invasion of privacy”.

They said that it was “deeply embarrassing” as “everyone knew it was my kitchen, so I was near enough named and shamed to the entire college.”

This comes amid Varsity’s report that multiple students have been disturbed by housekeeping in person too, with workers allegedly waking students up in the early morning and “screaming at us to put plates away.”

The incident has been described as a ‘massive invasion of privacy’
The incident has been described as a ‘massive invasion of privacy’ (Universal Images Group/Getty)

In one instance, when a student allegedly tried to get help with a cleaning issue, namely, an infestation of slugs, cleaners advised them to “just open a window.”

The college’s junior common room president, Aaron Lardi, described the cleaners’ actions as “unacceptable” and promised that action would be taken to “ensure that this does not happen again.”

Now, The Independent can reveal that the college is hiring for multiple housekeeping positions in the wake of the scandal.

As revealed on Indeed, the affected college, Fitzwilliam College, posted an ad for a “Casual Housekeeper” two days ago and only yesterday (24 April) added a second job ad for a “Housekeeping Supervisor”.

In the ad for the £25,100-a-year supervisor position, the college stresses that they want a candidate who is “committed to providing a professional and friendly service to our students, staff and commercial guests.”

The college is also advertising for housekeeping staff on its own website, specifying that they are seeking multiple candidates for a “rolling recruitment campaign”.

Meanwhile, on the Indeed listing, Fitzwilliam College specifies that it seeks cleaners – paid £12 an hour – for the summer months only.

Fitzwilliam College declined to comment further on the matter when asked by The Independent what steps they had taken to ensure further breaches of student privacy do not take place.

The college is hiring new housekeeping staff
The college is hiring new housekeeping staff (Indeed)

Citing their statement provided to Varsity, a spokesperson said: “On Wednesday, an email was sent by a member of staff to all students setting out cleaning expectations for those living in College accommodation. As part of this email, photos of communal areas were attached, alongside a photo of an unidentified student bedroom.

“The inclusion of the image of a student room was unacceptable and the College has issued an apology to the student and recalled the email. Steps have been taken with immediate effect to ensure that this does not happen again.

“All students living in College accommodation deserve access to clean and tidy shared facilities, and the Housekeeping team regularly access shared spaces to clean them.

“Historically, when spaces were so untidy that cleaning could not be carried out, Housekeepers used to knock on students’ doors, to offer them the opportunity to move items, so that they did not miss out on the weekly clean. This was always after 8am, usually later, and was meant to be of benefit to the students.

“In response to recent feedback from the JCR, this practice has stopped, and instead students receive emails to say the kitchen needs tidying for the following week.”

Students at the historic university have had more than one run-in with cleaners
Students at the historic university have had more than one run-in with cleaners (PA Archive)

News of the scandal comes after the university’s cleaners hit the headlines earlier this year for upsetting students.

They were accused of deliberately singling out Chinese students after displaying signs asking students to keep the bathrooms clean in Mandarin only.

As reported by The Tab, the signs were erected after toilets in Homerton College were left in an unacceptable way following a conference group meeting.

Lord Simon Woolley, the college’s principal, subsequently made an “unreserved apology” to all students and “in particular students of Chinese descent” when the apparent act of discrimination was made public.

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