I am going to do something very unlike me: in the course of this article I am going to stand up for businesses. Usually I’m all for standing up for student interests but this time I think that student interests have gone too far, and I find myself bizarrely on the side of local enterprises.
As you may be aware, the plan to convert the Derwent squash courts into a fully-functioning nightclub has been abandoned. The campus newspapers excitedly reported this a few months ago but have now had to sorrowfully report otherwise, as somebody forgot to mention that it would cost £250,000 more than our commentators had thought.
I accept the advantages of having a nightclub on our campus: it’s closer, there’s less of a danger when it comes to walking home late at night, it’s more convenient, you don’t have to pay for a taxi for your drunk friend, and so on. But hearing that the nightclub plan has been shelved, I am actually very cheerful, and that’s not just because I don’t enjoy clubbing. Frankly I think that we’re asking for too much.
Everyone in society has a bit of a utopian yearning, a vision of a perfect world. It doesn’t take a reading of H.G. Wells or Aldous Huxley to appreciate it. Our dreams are grand enough – a country where healthcare is free, where transport is free, where housing is free and so on. And one day we might get to live in this society, as long as our finances are in perfect condition. The Rolling Stones might tell you that we can’t have everything we desire, but I would say that we shouldn’t have everything anyway. I don’t care if we have the budget to construct a nightclub at Derwent (solidifying their reputation as the ‘party college’) and it is under YUSU’s control, I simply don’t see the point of it.
We have, for example, access to our own pool at the York Sport Village. It’s on-campus, we can take a free bus to the entrance and the price is reasonable. While we enjoy this privilege, I’m sure that there other pools or leisure centres in the area that lose a great audience or market as a consequence of our convenience. This would be the same if we had a nightclub on campus: Kuda, Salvation and the infamous Willow would lose a huge chunk of their income because students would find it more convenient to stay on-campus. That means that these clubs would retract all the deals and events oriented around students – Willow is open to students exclusively. What happens when our new on-campus nightclub loses its appeal, doesn’t make a profit for YUSU or costs too much to maintain? If we return to going into York and visiting our old haunts, will they be so keen to resume all those deals and events from which we currently benefit?
It’s an ambition of Thomas Ron, the soon-to-be Academic Officer of YUSU, for every lecture to be recorded. If students are unable to make the lectures due to illness, then they should be able to listen to them afterward and not be left behind by circumstances they could not control. I think that Ron is rightly making sure that every student has access to material that they should have, but the question that springs to mind is, If every lecture was recorded, would anyone attend them in person? Why bother leaving your home, on- or off-campus, to attend your lecture if you can wait an hour or so and listen to it in the comfort of your bedroom? Rather than give a lecture to an empty hall, the lecturers might as well borrow my dictaphone and record their presentations from their bedrooms too. Give a man enough rope and he’ll hang himself; the university or YUSU can only provide so much to its population before we’re not helping people anymore, we’re over-providing to the detriment of others outside of the University of York. Creating our own nightclub will give students no incentive to venture into town at night and sample the clubbing delicacies that York has to offer. (I voted for Ron, by the way – that doesn’t mean that I can’t critique a policy that I think is dubious.)
On top of this, just remember that figure that our administrators forgot to mention! I can think of plenty of other places in which £450,000 could be better spent, and if it were to go to construction of a Derwent nightclub, imagine the costs and expenditure! It would be imperative to maintain a profit to keep the place going, giving YUSU’s administration team another laborious task.
Students are in difficult financial circumstances, not at all helped by the £9,000 fees that we face, and so it’s fair that we are supported with things like discount schemes and themed events. But bringing every service to the campus will just upset our local businesses, provide the YUSU officials with mountains of paperwork, and rack up huge bills for the university and the union.