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6.5 Formal Dinners


Formal dining at Selwyn, whether at Formal Hall or on other occasions, is an important part of the tradition of our college. It is an opportunity to show off the College to family, friends, and colleagues. As such, it should be a civilised, enjoyable occasion for students and their guests. It is also vital that it should be a pleasant working environment for our staff.

6.5.1 Code of Conduct for Formal Dining and Sensible Alcohol Consumption

Drinking alcohol is part of the tradition of dining: in moderation, it can contribute to a formal and simultaneously relaxed, special atmosphere of such College occasions. Excessive alcohol consumption, on the other hand, often leads to anti-social, confrontational behaviour that spoils the occasion for other diners. It reduces your ability to empathise with other people, leads to rudeness and produces lack of consideration for the experience of other diners and those serving. At worst, it can put your safety, and the safety of others, at risk.

As a community the Deans, the JCR President and the MCR President have therefore agreed the following principles of mutual respect:

  • We agree to drink alcohol responsibly and in moderation.
  • We respect each other’s right to enjoy a pleasant evening in a mature and civilised environment, without having to endure boorish, offensive or harassing behaviour.
  • Likewise, we respect the right of our staff to be treated with dignity in their workplace.
  • We respect the fact that others may choose not to consume alcohol or to do so only in moderation.
  • In particular, shouting or aggressive behaviour, or drinking games, toasts and other forms of behaviour that coerce others into drinking more than they genuinely wish to consume are not acceptable and are prohibited.

More generally, students are reminded of the College’s position with regard to its Alcohol Policy and Guidelines

6.5.2 Formal dinners

The guidance given in this section of the Student Guide replicates some of what can be found in Section 7.3, Formal Hall. Formal Hall is, as the name suggests, a formal meal. It is a significant communal event, one important way in which a sense of community is established, and one that shows the College off to visitors. It is therefore important that standards of behaviour and dress at such an event must remain suitable to the occasion. Everybody in College should be able to enjoy this aspect of our communal life. To this end, the following set of guidelines and rules have been agreed with the JCR and MCR to govern both Formal Hall dining and any other formal dinners such as those organised by individuals, clubs and societies, the JCR or the MCR.

What Formal Hall is:

  • an occasion when members of College can dine together, in formal yet relaxed surroundings
  • an occasion on which members of College can invite guests, both from other Colleges and outside Cambridge, to whom they wish to extend hospitality.

The College undertakes to provide:

  • a carefully prepared meal at an affordable price
  • courteous and polite service
  • a congenial and pleasant atmosphere
  • an agreed system for making block bookings

Junior members undertake:

  • to abide at all times by the Code of Conduct for behaviour in Formal Hall
  • to behave reasonably throughout the meal, and not to detract from others’ enjoyment of the meal by intrusive or anti-social behaviour
  • at all times to behave courteously to the serving staff
  • not to abuse or defeat deliberately any agreed system for controlling block bookings.
  • to take responsibility for, and to ensure the good behaviour of, any guests brought to dinner.

6.5.3 Guests at Formal Hall and dinners

All guests at Formal Hall must be over 16.

Please see Section 7.3.6 of the Guide for details of how to book tickets for guests and group bookings.

Members of College are asked not to book guest tickets for other people’s guests (to do so is also risky, because the Selwyn host will be responsible for any bad behaviour committed by guests for whom they have booked tickets). The College does, however, understand that occasionally there might be very good reason for a student to wish to bring more than two guests to Formal Hall (for example, to entertain family members or close friends or colleagues). The Deans are prepared to give permission for more than two guests in reasonable circumstances. Enquiries about additional guest tickets for Formal Hall should be directed in the first instance to the Conference Office ( If space is available at the relevant Formal Hall, any such reasonable requests will be agreed, on condition that the guests are known personally to the Selwyn student making the booking and that the names of those guests are provided. The host will be held strictly responsible for the behaviour of their guests.

Formal Hall cannot, however, be used for entertaining large groups, including university clubs and societies – anyone wishing to do so should instead book a separate formal dinner, in one of the public rooms in College. If you wish to organise such a meal, you should consult the Conference Office ( in good time. The College expects the same standards of behaviour at such events as at Formal Hall.