Sorting out the collegiate system

As the University continues to expand onto Heslington East, it is becoming clear that we need to develop distinct personalities for each of our colleges

Continuing in its endless endeavours to make the world a better place for us all, YUSU has decided to modify the collegiate system at York.

In an attempt to redefine the University in the image of something not so far from Hogwarts, YUSU’s proposed plan for each college is for it to further develop distinguishable personalities, so that you can select a college based on the belief that it was destined to be part of your life, rather than for the en-suite, or the mind-blowing social life the college website claims to bestow upon every unsuspecting first-year within the first few days of Freshers Week.

For a student who mainly chose accommodation on the basis that it ‘looked nice’, as was the case for many people, this seems like a mammoth task for anyone. How can I say that I’m ‘[insert college name here] till I die’ if I am still not entirely sure what the phrase constitutes? Once you have left the freedom of first year behind, you are likely to realise the truly grim reality of life in halls. I certainly haven’t seen many second and third years lurking around halls like it’s JB Morrell and they have exams to revise for. With the current system, once most people have left their halls, they have left their college too.

It doesn’t help that every single one of our eight colleges is the same; half a dozen replicates of the degenerated old-timers Derwent and Langwith, still trapped in the 1960s decor, with nowhere to go but Heslington East.

And if you haven’t selected one of the many colleges making up the hub of the University, haphazardly located in a manner similar to a child’s attempt at a jigsaw puzzle, then you undoubtedly ended up in either Alcuin, Goodricke, or Halifax, left sulking, away from the party like the missing jigsaw piece of York.

I am a self-confessed advocate of individuality, though I admittedly possess little myself, but only when there actually is some sort of a unique selling point to serenade. Without distinctiveness, is there really a point in all of this one-upmanship? We have college versus college bar crawls and inter-college sports; everything we do is focused on our instinctive competitive spirit. But who are the real winners in college football? Is it the players bound by a love of ‘the game’ or just a collection bound by the shared inadequacies of their block?

It seems that when the colleges around campus aren’t fighting for sunlight, we spend our spare time strutting around campus trying to pretend we have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, which would be perfectly acceptable if we actually did.

If our colleges were known for their own speciality, the diversity of students applying for each one would surely diminish, but this is a small price to pay when there’s no need to know everyone in the same academic year anyway, especially when the diversity contained in the queue for Willow every Sunday night alone is enough keep you entertained and surprised for the entirety of your education at York.

YUSU’s proposals will put the University back on the map as far as student satisfaction is concerned, with many more excuses for college-related events, and I imagine the new-found community will pour the elixir back into student life on campus once more. Freshers will be given the chance to pop on their own sorting hat and choose a college they connect with, as they sign away their soul to another three years in education.

Having said this, the proposed collegiate system may become a catch-22, because attempting to become more individual inevitably renders the University as little more than a Madame Tussaud waxwork model of Oxbridge (something which we have yet to welcome with open arms).
We’re trapped in our own ideals of the perfect university. Surely it would make life a lot easier to rekindle the community spirit and give each college a reason to exist. It would certainly eradicate the tension that emanates from first-years as they bicker between themselves over the preeminent college. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Most people chose their college based on something entirely superficial anyway.

We either need to jump in to the deep end of a collegiate system and join Oxbridge and Durham, or admit defeat and get over the fact that we’re not Hogwarts, despite the lures of Diagon Alley resting on our doorstep.

YUSU’s proposals not only highlight a need for reform in the collegiate system, but they throw the spotlight on just how similar every one of York’s colleges actually are, and the blinded ignorance we all share, bound together in the belief that our college is the best.

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