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University Challenged

Moronic inferno

An anonymous academic on campus follies

The language of ancient Rome confers a certain dignity upon any and all it touches. A surefire way of sexing up the promotional material of some wretched university, for example, is to incorporate a trite saying into its heraldry: Experientia Docet (“Experience Teaches” — Derby) and Excellentia et stadium (“Excellence and Zeal” — De Montford, Leicester). Others, beyond the merest pretence to excellence, don’t even bother with the Latin: “Excellence in Diversity” (Oxford Brookes), “Do Different” (UEA, Norwich) and “Forward” (Aston, Birmingham). And yet, as readers of Catullus and Martial will appreciate, what Latin gives it can take away.

As a young academic it has been particularly painful to watch student culture decline, fall and be trodden into dust within such a short span of time by barbarians from the wellbeing/self-help industry. Mawkish practices that would have been mocked mercilessly just a few years ago have now become hugely popular. Rogue beigists who would have been given a wide berth are now celebrated as “relatable” and taken seriously by once-august institutions. In a situation almost beyond parody, a dead language as practised by a long-dead Englishman may well be all that is left with which to battle the moronic inferno raging throughout the university sector.

Fortunately, the great wit and “Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty” John Wilkes supplies the right calibre of ammunition with his beloved motto, In recto decus. This wry pun can mean either “In uprightness there is beauty” or “Up the arse is beauty” depending on whether one favours satire or rude derision. Either way, it is a fitting and essential countermeasure against most forms of derangement.

Quackery has assumed many forms throughout history but one of the strangest has to be the widespread use of comfort animals in British universities. These are not — fortunately — procured for the purposes of bestiality.

Only slightly less dismayingly, they function as an ad hoc corps of emotional support janissaries conscripted for forced petting by students. One unfortunate Cambridge canine was so ill-used that it had a mental breakdown and was carried off to dog rehab. Multiple universities now advertise “puppy rooms” during exam season for the stressed and incapable to “release some endorphins”.

The internet, as everyone knows, is dark and full of terrors

One might have thought that adults would shun offers like this out of sheer embarrassment and conclude their time was better spent the old-fashioned way, by revising hard. Alas not: 600 puerile students signed up in Bristol alone. There are variations on this theme. One northern university engaged a creepy “massage man” to skulk in a deserted communal room offering shoulder-rubs. Bristol University, a serial offender in this field, went one further and offered “squares of bubblewrap” with medical-grade prescriptions to “pop three capsules every four to six hours, or as needed”. Sadly this backfired when environmentalists protested at the avoidable plastic waste. In recto decus.

The internet, as everyone knows, is dark and full of terrors. One of these is StudyTube. Middle-class students at prestigious universities film themselves revising and performing the various mundanities of daily life like packing suitcases, drinking coffee or sitting on trains. They post these videos on YouTube with accompanying pictures on Instagram and banal running commentaries on Twitter. Typical pronouncements include: “I must be a waterproof hooman today”; “In case you haven’t: noticed 😔🤟 I’m: weird 😳 I’m a: weirdo 😬 I don’t: fit in 😪”; and “fuck i edited a montage of my first two years at uni for my moving in video and it actually hit me right in the feels”.

They brand themselves along the following lines: “StudyTube. Veganism. Self Confidence. ~ positive gal obsessed with self growth x” or “University youtuber | Putting the fun in fundamentally incapable”. People who should otherwise be studying go online to watch these other people studying. The StudyTubers then flog them common tat: cups, planners and jumpers embroidered with sayings such as “Early Bird” and “you’ve got this”. Tens of thousands of gullible youths subscribe to their social media channels, these products sell out and the digital poetasters land high-flying City jobs. In recto decus.

Pseudoscience will always be with us. Profiteering from exhibitionism is the second-oldest profession. Students embrace bad ideas. Exams matter, they are stressful, and coping mechanisms must be employed. Still nothing new under the sun. Yet the fact that this nonsense is being promoted in elite higher education institutions is new and must be ridiculed back into the gutter post-haste. Like adult colouring books or goat yoga, comfort animals and StudyTube are self-consciously infantilising and utterly, damnably pathetic. Or, in a word (with Latin  roots), retarded.

So let battle against the beigists commence and the war cry sound out via The Critic: In recto decus!

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