Jules Chan, Second Year, Law
The inability of our institutions to understand the student population sometimes seems so prevalent that lethargy might reasonably be mistaken for strategy.
The canary in the coal mine should have been 2010, when the Government and Universities forced through an increase in tuition fees despite widespread student protests. And with lockdown, it seems that the metaphorical mine has collapsed entirely.
Government aside, the University’s long list of blunders might be a consequence of circumstance. Nevertheless, it is the student population that is forced to pay for these mistakes.
If the University is out of touch with students, the natural place to start connecting would be where students themselves connect with each other
Like many second years, I now find myself entering my final year with a mere four months of actual face-to-face teaching under my belt. I would have also faced exploitative rent charges arising from confusion over whether in-person learning was happening; a situation a number of my peers found themselves facing.
The switch to blended learning in the last year has driven all aspects of the student experience online, but Blackboard and Zoom do not constitute the university experience we were told we would be getting.
Had it not been for Bristruths and Briscrush, I would have had very little understanding of the broader University culture outside of my subject.
It seems inevitable, then, that the page has developed into a sort of ‘town square’: dominated by contrarians, arguments about the ‘hardest’ degree, and notably, the occasional protest.
Thus, a rather simple suggestion: if the University is out of touch with students, the natural place to start connecting would be where students themselves connect with each other; that place being none other than Bristruths.
Dispel with the absurd image of Hugh Brady avidly scrolling through posts about Voi scooters and it is an idea that has the potential to democratise the operation of the University.
Suspicions arise about whether the University really wants to listen to students at all
Bristruths gives the University’s administration a constant feed of student discourse against which they can evaluate their policies. ‘Tempora mutantur’ as the adage goes.
Or maybe not so.
At least in its current incarnation, Bristruths is not ‘democratic’ as much as it is restrictive. The town square façade is in reality a stage for anonymous, crowdsourced entertainment - that brings with it distortion.
That students are a fairly left-leaning bunch seems demographically self-evident. However, this is hardly reflected in the proportion of Bristruths posts that seem curated to display a comparatively diverse range of opinions.
The factors at play here: anonymity, the type of student with the propensity to broadcast their opinions publicly, not least the unchecked, arbitrary power of the admins to regulate what is and is not shown for the benefit of entertainment and engagement. All cast doubts on the ‘representative’ nature of Bristruths.
Perhaps these are issues that might be resolved. However, based on the fundamental split in priority between entertainment and constructive forum, I suspect not.
Quite simply, ignorance of Bristruths might be bliss.
Even so, all this assumes that the University actually wants feedback. Perhaps it is cynicism, but consider that in the last five years alone, increases in tuition fees have outpaced the growth of staff salaries by three percent, and suspicions arise about whether the University really wants to listen to students at all.
Where knowledge implies complicity, to hear demands for cutting fees and increasing spending on services would only make it more difficult to justify a position that prioritises profit above the student experience. Quite simply, ignorance of Bristruths might be bliss.
Featured Image: Unsplash / Thought Catalog
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