UCL fines student for demonstrating entrepreneurial flair


From The Times May 31/05/10: ­­­­­

The founder of a student flirting website has been fined £300 for bringing his university into disrepute.

The FitFinder, set up last month, combines Twitter and Facebook to allow students to exchange saucy messages on campus. The site received four million hits in its first month and has rapidly expanded to universities across the country.

Rich Martell, 21, a final-year computer sciences student at University College London, has taken the site down under pressure from university authorities, who were concerned that it was distracting students from their studies. Staff claim to have been contacted by a number of other universities unhappy about FitFinder.

Really? Why on earth would it concern staff at other universities?

The letter added that non-payment of the fine, which is the maximum that can be awarded by the Dean for misconduct, would result in Mr Martell’s degree results being withheld.

FitFinder has gained national attention since its launch in April for its risque content and its wildfire-like spread.

The same could be said for many Facebook groups and indeed other social networking sites.

The site allows students to “spot” attractive people in libraries, cafes and lecture theatres, and post a message about them on the publicly visible site in the hope of getting a response. The site has been criticised by women’s groups, who cite sexually explicit comments as evidence of its offensive tone, while supporters argue that it is nothing more than friendly banter and a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun.

I’m sure women have used FitFinder prolifically to post comments about men. Should men’s groups get their panties in a similar twist?

Mr Martell has vowed to resume the service as soon as the safety of his university degree is guaranteed and said that it was an unfair reaction to a social networking site that he sees as no different to Facebook or Twitter. “If a UCL student posted something offensive on Facebook would they hold Mark Zuckerberg [the site’s founder] responsible?” he asked.

This is utterly ludicrous in my opinion and smacks of an out-dated and overly prudish stance from a university which claims to move with the times. UCL should be encouraging Martell’s entrepreneurial flair and skill – not fining him for his creativity.

Social networking is here and is a reality – for all of the evil it has wrought on the world, it’s done a lot of good too.

Is FitFinder truly any different from a student setting up a facebook group for the same purpose? Plus, with being popular, Martell has only provided a service which people clearly want. Bad show, UCL. Bad show.


  1. Quite agree with you on that one

  2. LOL - I knew it'd happen eventually! :p

  3. The big thing for me comes from PCPro - "UCL does not approve of or condone this site," a spokeswoman said, although she admitted FitFinder didn't run on UCL's servers and therefore the university had "no jurisdiction over the site".

    I don't understand how you can go from no jurisdiction over the site to fining the creator for making it.

  4. Yeah, the whole thing is preposterous to me.

    My take on UCL’s ridiculous stance was that they were claiming Martell, as an enrolled student, had brought the university into disrepute and that that was the basis of the fine.

    If anything, they’ve got a bunch of free and easy media attention out of it and illustrated how talented some of their computer science students are ... I think *they* should be paying Martell, not fining him!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Blogger’s new templates: Contempo, Soho, Emporio and Notable

Charlotte Dymond Facts

Christmas sandwiches