There has been a wide variety of opinions on how successful 2017 was as a year. For many it will be remembered predominantly for being the year in which we were constantly bombarded by the media with references to a President that resembles a Wotsit, and talk of a second referendum became more repetitive than an Ed Sheeran song. For me personally, 2017 was everything I have come to expect of a year at the University of York. Many a day was spent being chased by geese or wasting half my student loan on YUSU Shop meal deals. I moved into a second year house and my relationship with my housemates reached a level of cooperation similar to that represented in a wholesome meme, while thankfully our house does not look anything like Shrek’s swamp.
Although 2017 was not particularly eventful for me, it was an eventful year for the university as a whole. If you look back at the front pages of this newspaper from 2017, many were very negative. Revs was proven to be overworking their staff and their managers were constantly hitting on them; high levels of drug abuse were reported at Big D; many students missed their LFA exams; and the University seemed to forget about having to house all of its first year students.
More recently, a homeless couple were able to walk into the University and use private facilities, unnoticed by security, and it was reported that students are living in terrible conditions off campus. Of course, negative news is often more engaging than positive news and makes more headlines, but there are many questions that the University must answer here. A bigger concern for most students is the decline in York’s reputation. York has fallen in the university rankings, ranking 20th in the country after regularly featuring in the top ten. This will impact both investment in the University and the perception of its graduates. There were also concerns about how York students represented themselves.
For me the most concerning event on campus last year was the Hockey White T-shirt Social at the beginning of last term. Universities pride themselves on being forward thinking, open minded places and students are often critical of older generations for their conduct. This event conveyed the complete opposite and made York look like an embarrassment nationally. It is disappointing that simply giving students a pen and a blank canvas immediately descended into racism and hate speech. Although this is perhaps a criticism of all students and the binge-drinking culture which we subscribe ourselves to, York must act to prevent similar events from taking place on campus again. There have been many incidents at York over the last few years. In addition to the hockey scandal, the ‘ambulance chart’ which Halifax freshers used to compete against one another to see who could end up in A&E the fastest was a shocking story. Prior to this in 2014, the hockey team were again in the national news for their poor conduct.
It seems that the University is failing to set an example of how students should behave when they first arrive and perhaps unfortunately there needs to be a clearer message about how students’ inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated. To give the University the benefit of the doubt, unfortunately there is not much that can be done in these situations and often it is too late for action to take place.
This year has thankfully not all been doom and gloom. Question Time was hosted on Hes East which was a big achievement and allowed the University to prove that not all its buildings look like retro UFOs. In addition there have been some very entertaining moments: back in January a student found a snail in their sausage and chips at Monks Cross; a poster of Jeremy Corbyn dabbing rapidly sold out at Freshers Fair; and, possibly most entertainingly, Marmite was announced as being good for the brain by York researchers. So around 50 per cent of the population will be pleased.
However, it seems that the University has a lot to answer for. In 2017 students were not the centre of attention and the outrageous behaviour of a small group of students was all that seemed to represent York’s students outside of campus. The University should be providing students with things that are useful rather than focusing on making a profit. Rather than selling half the space at Freshers’ Fair to businesses, why not provide more space for societies so that students do more than just go to Kuda every Tuesday? Why not focus on improving teaching standards in order to boost the University’s TEF ranking to gold instead of solely focusing on research? Why not look to protect students who live off campus to ensure they are living in good conditions and are not being ripped off by landlords? If York wants to remain prestigious, it needs to do more for its students, so they are presented in a good light. If not then the scandals will continue and new students will begin to look elsewhere.
Please in 2018 can students be made the first priority.