By Edward Acton, Second Year Sociology
“When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go” (Nanny McPhee).
I’m writing this piece whilst watching the 10 o’clock news. Footage is looping of Boris Johnson proclaiming that we shouldn’t panic and resort to “draconian” measures, but rather listen to the experts – a change of direction so dramatic since the referendum that it would render even the best compass useless. Yet, I broadly agree with the government’s advice, and particularly with their decision to not push Universities to close.
To start off with, coronavirus affects us minimally. In China, teens and those in their 20s had the lowest rates of infection – 1.2% and 8.1% respectively – aside from infants. This is despite these age groups interacting with greater numbers of people at school and university and having a greater propensity to use public transport. The estimated likelihood of death for those of undergraduate age who contract the disease is 0.2% but, in reality, the number is likely even lower given many don’t actually know they have the virus. So, we’re unlikely to contract it, and if we do, it is incredibly unlikely to have critical implications.
Even if the university decides these statistics were still too distressing for it to remain open, as it just has, what does it suspect the students will do? They’re not all going to exodus en masse up the M32, returning to the homes from which they’ve spent most their lives dreaming to escape, and most international students will likely stay in Bristol anyway. The lack of university-structured days and horrifically early starts will only lead to the exhaustion of Netflix’s library, heavier drinking and later, more ‘cosy’ nights.
I broadly agree with the government's advice
Are your chances of catching the virus higher in a seminar where you could count the number of students on one hand (and the number of speaking participants on one finger), and where nobody dares sit in the seat directly next to somebody else, taking the passive-aggressive coat-on-seat as a sign, or are they higher in, say, a club, with 400 students tasting drinks, sharing cigarettes and sloppily making out?
It might be crass to bring up economics in the context of health, but, as Margaret Case Harriman once uttered, ‘money is what you’d get on beautifully without if only other people weren’t so crazy about it’. We can’t ignore the financial discussion; £9,250 per annum is not a small amount.
I’m a student of social science and have had all my contact hours cancelled by the second wave of strikes, which equated to two weeks, strategically placed between reading week. That means that, collectively, we have only had 3 weeks of tuition this term. I’m going to restrain myself from going down the ‘marginalisation of the social scientist’ path much further, but suffice to say this term has seen a return on investment almost akin to Mike Bloomberg’s $500m presidential campaign, and cancelling further weeks of tuition for coronavirus is just the icing on the cake (if the icing is resentment and the cake, debt).
Whilst there are hordes of journalists ready to reprimand the decision (many of the same journalists, by the way, that are correctly telling us to have faith in the experts when it comes to the climate crisis), these scientists have nonetheless conceived of a strategy, based on evidence, specific to our situational and national conditions. More broadly, this is the path that has been decided on by the UK’s chief medical and chief scientific advisers. You need not close universities they say, so let’s not close the universities. This is their job.
This is the path that has been decided on by the UK's chief medical and chief scientific advisers
They’re like grit spreaders or Michael Bublé; for most of the year they’re invisible, but when you need them, you can guarantee they’ll be there, just like Nanny McPhee. Well we need them now and we’d better start listening. After all, no good ever came to those who shunned her...
Featured Image: Unsplash / Fusion Medical
What do you think of the University's response?