Leader: Thrifty City's fine line

November 4, 2005

Speech may be free but silence can be costly. Academics who book seminar rooms and lecture halls at City University now incur fines for their department if they fail to use them.

Along with the fines came, for a short time, "room police" who stalked the corridors to check whether or not rooms were being used. There are reports of staff staying in otherwise empty seminar rooms and lecture halls rather than returning to their offices to work.

At the root of this regime of financial penalties is a concern that the university spends £800,000 a year on booking external rooms for classes. Administrators can surely be excused for thinking that some of this sum could be saved if better use were made of City's own facilities.

There is nothing wrong with prudence - indeed, universities are well versed in watching the pennies. But fining staff is perhaps taking thrift a little too far.

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