Prêt à Porter

Students have had enough of towing the bottom line

As you’ve probably tired of hearing during your time here, it takes an awful lot to get a York student out of bed in the morning. You’re an apathetic, complacent lot, or so your reputation would have it, and quite happy to laze in bed while the rest of the country’s student activists are out fighting the powers that be tooth and nail.

Thankfully, this is nowhere near the mark. Extensive personal research has revealed other British universities to be little different from here, except with a lot more self-destructive boozing and a marginally lesser degree of institutional incompetence. And it’s the latter to which we must turn if we’re looking for the issue that has finally roused you all from your bleary-eyed slumber. The University, it seems, can take any number of liberties with your education, your social life, your wallet. But heaven forbid they try and take away your porters. In the immortal words of Walter Sobchak, this is about drawing a line in the sand. Across this line: you do not cross.

The act of micturation that the University has perpetrated upon the college system has not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by the huge number of signatures, from students and faculty alike, that accompany Nouse’s open letter condemning the situation. Many included their affectionate reminiscences of encounters with the University’s famously unflappable porters, ranging all the way from tending to the injured and drunk to saving the modesty of the blushing and betowelled (or those otherwise caught in a state of dishabille). The recurrent theme of students’ comments, however, was the sense of security that porters provide, and the peace of mind of a friendly face when other sources of help aren’t available.

Maybe there’s something slightly regressive about this. Should students really need twenty-four hour supervision in order to feel secure? They certainly wouldn’t receive it anywhere else, and in this respect the life of an undergraduate is a uniquely coddled one. Still, it’s a stretch to read well-meaning tough love into the University’s actions. There’s little more reason to believe the official line: that reductions in staffing were “unforeseeable”, and not a calculated attempt at whittling down costs.

Only the most naïve have yet to grasp the essential drive behind University decision-making: money talks, and administration listens. That the Students’ Union has long seemed to be in a state of denial over this speaks volumes about its limited stock of independence and gumption, not to mention the powerful strain of paranoid conservatism that has left successive generations of its officers incapable of putting up a real fight against the bureaucratic juggernaut. As the thousand or so signatures on this page attest, York students suffer from no such delusions.

One comment

  1. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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