This past academic year has been a bit of a nonstarter. It has been a year characterised by a lack of ambition, of motivation and a general sense of pointlessness.
Fair few of us can really claim to have achieved anything, and those who can are just showing off and should shut up because they’re making the rest of us look bad.
The university experience has been irreparably damaged for so many and it will be interesting to see whether the prospective return to normality that feels so close will usher in a new or better experience. Or will our fears and concerns about social interaction remain and cast a grim, sombre shadow over our remaining years at this institution?
If this past academic year has taught me anything it is that we do need to have at least some semblance of in-person education. It is far too easy to join zoom calls from your bed, half-listening while you drift in and out of sleep. When the lecturer asks a question, sure it’s still uncomfortable but you don’t have to sit in front of them, trying to avoid eye contact. Fear of being caught out is a great motivator for education, perhaps an even greater motivator than the pursuit of knowledge.
This next academic year must learn the lessons of the former. While much of the rest of the world is still struggling, in the UK and Scotland the vaccine rollout has been largely successful. More than half the population has received a first dose, and all over-18s are due to be offered their first dose by August (‘offered’ being the operative word). The University must strive to phase in in-person teaching but this would not go nearly far enough.
A key facet of any positive university experience is meeting new people and as such significantly more effort needs to go into giving us opportunities to interact. Societies will be integral to repairing the damage caused by the last year and the university must endeavour to support them as much as possible. Whether this involves subsidising memberships for the frankly stupidly expensive sports socs, providing more space at different times for societies to book rooms or something else that someone with way more time on their hands than I can come up with – come on Pete, earn that vice-chancellor’s salary.
It comes as no surprise that it costs an arm and a leg to get involved in most activities at this university. It is one of the last seemingly indomitable bastions of financial discrimination. When so many students are paying so much to attend it is hardly reasonable to demand another small fortune from them just so they can meet new people outside of classes.
The students who started in the past academic year have no knowledge of the shared experiences that the rest of us have in common. They’ve had no Teviot, no Pear Tree, no Big Cheese – not that I mourn that last one. They’ve never gotten to use the wrap bar at King’s (truly the best feature of the university).
The University and the Students’ Association must strive to remedy this. This is of course an academic institution and that should always be it’s first priority. But if people are miserable and lonely then there is less and less motivation to study and less and less reason for people to come here because they’ll hear it sucks.
So Peter, if you want to maintain that egregious and utterly unearned salary, get it sorted. Because we all deserve a belter of a year to make up for this omnishambles.
Image: The Library via MJ Richardson