Lenny Shail, Coventry Socialist Party
Over the last few weeks, the capitalist media has expressed outrage at students and young people holding parties, socialising, or even just queueing in large numbers.
Covid-19 restrictions are essential to curb the virus. However, it is the government, universities and businesses who have largely told students to go about university life as normal.
Many students still have at least some teaching on campus. And university managements have told first-years to move into halls as they would in normal times.
Meanwhile, the government’s drive to restore profits led to long queues – and, particularly during ‘eat out to help out’, rammed restaurants. There were 64 million meals claimed during the scheme’s first three weeks alone, says booking service OpenTable.
According to the capitalists, as long as there is a till and a card machine present, it doesn’t count! But when it comes to hundreds of thousands of teenagers uprooting themselves from all around the country, they are not allowed chances to make new friends or socialise.
This is unrealistic and even mentally damaging. All humans need and will naturally seek social interaction.
Many universities own huge amounts of property – buildings, open land and sports fields. These could be used creatively to provide safe, socially distanced social events like sports, games and parties, with masks, gloves, sanitisers and other precautions provided.
In the absence of this, one incident in Coventry has drawn particularly widespread coverage. This followed a video of 200-odd students gathering in the common area of the Arundel House accommodation block. What the establishment media often neglects to report is that these students all live in the same block anyway – a block that holds about 800 in total.
At some unis, each massive block is supposed to be its own bubble! At others, each crowded flat is supposedly its own bubble – but many students still have to share facilities with seven or more people. It seems the government doesn’t apply its ‘rule of six’ in this context.
Either way, the idea that 800 students could somehow isolate themselves in a single, crowded building, akin to a prison in size and space per person, is ridiculous.
Socialist Students and the Socialist Party support those students facing victimisation. Student and staff unions should support them too. University management must scrap these punishments.
The complete insufficiency of the government’s privatised test-and-trace system is also at fault. Making unis safe means mass testing of students and staff, and a locally based, publicly owned, fully funded contact-tracing system.
Arundel House, where the gathering took place, is privately owned. It would not make the landlords any money if students had stayed home.
Meanwhile, Coventry University reported a £17.5 million surplus last year. Newcastle University has even paid police to harass student housing areas rather than using that money to support students!
If halls parties are dangerous, and teaching is almost all online, then clearly their only concern is getting their rent and fees. Universities, businesses and landlords have shown no interest in providing a safe and liveable environment. We call for elected staff and student committees to have democratic oversight of university coronavirus measures and planning of safe social events.