In February of 2007, this newspaper circulated an open letter to Brian Cantor calling on the Vice-Chancellor to restore what had – in a matter of months – become a skeleton crew of porters to their full strength, and to make a pledge to maintain such a complement in the future. Over 1,200 people, including college provosts, well-known alumni, national lobby group leaders and disgruntled York students signed the letter, and campus breathed a collective sigh of relief when – it appeared – that the demands had been met.
Now it seems the threat was simply postponed.
The University may deny such a drive by quoting statistics such as beds per lodge, or net porter numbers or hours. The opening of Heslington East affords them this luxury. Instead of hiring 6 new porters from the job market – and avoiding all the costs that this incurs – porters from Heslington West that would seemingly have faced the axe were ‘redeployed’. The University’s reneged promises to benefit the local job industry aside, this must offer little consolation to the porters that still have a job. With more security staff planning to be hired, and the University adamantly stating – against all popular wisdom, and certainly the opinion of all students that have ever turned to a porter for help – that welfare provision is not to be considered inside the remit of a porter, the future looks bleak. Refuting this bizarre and wholly untrue assertion should be our first priority.
Students have made their voices heard before. We can mobilise again. This isn’t above arms investment or political parties – we all have the same dependence and emotional investment in a well-equipped and adequately-funded portering service – and we must all join together in order for the University to understand our stance.
The University has already conceded to restoring 24-hour portering for the first two weeks of this term, agreeing that Freshers need as much support as possible during their most vulnerable time at University.
The usual suspects will lead the fight, but they cannot make a difference alone. The porters deserve our support, and it is our duty to do so.
If we falter, we might not realise what we had until it is gone.