Happy New Year everyone!
If you’re anything like me, your New Year’s Eve was a bit of a let-down, but it was a cost we were willing to take among these tough times in order to come back stronger in 2021. A year for change, for hope, and maybe even, an ounce of any sort of recognition towards the student population from those above us. Hah! Don’t be so stupid. In Boris Johnson’s hotly anticipated lockdown threequel announcement (Lockdown 3: The Squeakquel), you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out there wasn’t a single claim of sympathy for those of us who are currently paying nine grand a year for a glorified Powerpoint subscription. Of course not. Even at a Covid briefing – when Boris was asked by a student what the government’s planned response towards us was – he gave a wishy washy answer full of nothingness, like the kid at school who always had to bullshit their way through unprepared-for history presentations.
Anyway, what more did you expect from the human equivalent of a furry boiled egg? At least we still had the university to rely on right! Right? After another lockdown plunged us into deeper frustration and confusion, and as an open letter from the student body with demands that concessions be made was sent to the university, we could surely find solace in the institution that was supposed to be preparing us for adult life. Well, let’s take a look at the Vice Chancellor’s recent email reaching out to us – the students – in these challenging times. A run-down of the ‘best bits’, if you will:
“First, I want, as Vice-Chancellor, to reassure you that the University is committed to doing everything we can to support you, including continuing to take steps to ensure your safety, health and wellbeing.”
Reassuring words here, I’m sure you’ll agree. Very reassuring indeed. In fact, let’s check in with a couple of students to see how reassured they are by these words:
“Three out of our four final semesters have been ruined, over half of us have declining mental health and you won’t give us any sort of safety net? F**k right off you massive spanners.” – 3rd Year Student.
“With no face-to-face contact I’ve got more work than ever and don’t qualify for any extensions. My mental health is being crippled by the workload without any proper guidance.” – 2nd Year Student.
“HOW THE F**K AM I EXPECTED TO DO MY DEGREE TO THE FULL STANDARD 250 MILES AWAY FROM F***ING UNIVERSITY WITH NO F***ING SUPPORT.” – 3rd Year Student.
The only thing more reassuring sounding than that it, well, literally anything. But that’s okay! That’s only a few students, I’m sure not all students are unable to find any comfort in the VC’s words… let’s continue:
“And that you continue to receive a high-quality education and the best possible experience in the circumstances.”
Wait, sorry, what? Did she just say, ‘high-quality education’? If you can call seminars where you spend five minutes explaining the single good point you had, only to realise your microphone was muted the whole time ‘high-quality’, then I guess the bloke you met on night one of Freshers and haven’t spoken to since is a high-quality friend. As for experience, I spent my first semester watching the entirety of the Bond films from start to finish and playing pub quizzes on YouTube. Yeah, that’s right, the authentic university experience.
“From my first four months at the University, I have seen first-hand what a supportive, collaborative and understanding community Leeds is.”
Well, she’s got that right. We support each other’s mental health and wellbeing when we have nobody else to turn to. We collaborate on our assessments and exams because it’s literally the only way to do well. We understand – more than anything – that we really, really, want our money back. A community of angry, isolated and let-down students.
“I am sure that if we harness the same spirit that has served us so well up until now, we can get through this together.”
And I am sure your six-figure salary will help you get through just fine – which, I believe, any student would agree is certainly a more-than justified wage even in regular times. As for spirit, we might not all be drinking the same kind but even that can only get us so far. I too hope we can all get through this, but I think the other side looks a little bleaker for us than it does for you at the top.
So, what have we learnt from the university’s response to this shitshow? Well, not a lot. Probably nothing actually. Of course, there was the admin information which basically just read ‘DON’T BLOODY COME BACK’, and that’s helpful – sort of – at least it’s clear that most of us will be spending another two months stuck with our families. While a modest week extension has been granted for deadlines due this month, the students’ overarching demand for a university-wide safety net – as was in place last year when this happened – has so far been ignored. What’s more, these extensions do nothing for the majority of students still having to sit exams, with STEM students lacking any practical experience from the previous semester. At least we have the prospect that they plan to “provide information on [our] questions”, and hopefully they will in the coming weeks, let’s just hope the answers aren’t as lacklustre as our Prime Minister’s.