Not coming from Derwent myself, I’ve never been to any of the infamous Club Ds. In first year, I used to watch in jealousy as all the pictures of a campus event that was actually good popped up on my Facebook news feed. This year, the reaction tends to be one of disbelief that anyone post-Freshers hasn’t got fed up of the bizarre humiliation that is fancy dress yet, but the point still stands. The threat to close the bar always seemed strange. Despite seeming like a dull school canteen, the overbearing enthusiasm for their college displayed by most of my Derwent acquaintances always indicated that their watering hole was probably the only one enjoying any kind of financial success.
When its closure was mooted, the usual, well-rehearsed reaction of outrage was wheeled out and an apparent crisis was averted, at least for the meantime. So far, so good. It almost seems that with every passing week comes a new threat to a college bar. I imagine that the vast majority of people feel just as fed up as I do about the seeming inevitability of the situation. So the news that Derwent bar might just get a refurbishment instead of being sent packing altogether came as a bit of a surprise.
It is encouraging that this move has been made, albeit seemingly without any consultation with YUSU. The fact that the University is apparently showing commitment to improving facilities for students is a cheering and welcome sign, particularly in these times of funding cuts and dwindling levels of student satisfaction.
However, I think it would be naïve not to view these proposals with a pinch of salt. The timing seems odd; after talking about closing it over the summer, to completely backtrack and announce an improvement seems both uncharacteristic and implausible. The cynics are given more food for thought by the fact that the refurbishment is “unconfirmed” due to some legal waffle about when the expenditure has to be completed. Are they just telling us what we would like to hear, with no intention of following through on these plans?
Even if the work does go ahead, the failure to provide a solid timeframe could put Big D in jeopardy. Far from improving campus facilities and events, this would be the exact opposite and seems rather counter-productive. Staging such an ambitious and impressive event is a near-impossible task, particularly on a campus hardly renowned for such things, and would be made even more difficult without the central point the bar provides.
The timing is even worse when combined with the planned memorial garden, dedicated to the late Provost, Ron Weir. Derwent JCR has raised an impressive amount of money for what should be a touching and fitting tribute. This is an example of a sense of community spirit which often seems to be lacking at York. It scarcely seems fair to potentially sabotage two things which are some of the few jewels in the tarnished crown of university spirit. If the proposed refurbishment really is a move to get students back on side, they seemed to have missed a trick. University wide spirit should be the priority.
Cynical it may be, but the University’s track record on these matters is hardly a cause for optimism. It would be a mistake not to notice the cloud that comes with the silver lining.