Making An ASS Of Yourself

Tom Robbins responds to Epigram’s recent criticism of Spotted In The ASS

Life is serious.

One day there will be mortgages to apply for, insurance to pay, a veritable shitload of important stuff to worry about.

University on the other hand represents 3 or 4 years of fun, a glorious hole (or glory hole, if you will) between being someone else’s responsibility and having responsibility for anyone else. It’s a time for learning and self-discovery; a life-sandbox where you are free to make mistakes without Earth-shattering consequence (most of the time).

In other words, we have our whole lives ahead of us to be spoil-sports. So why start now?

I don’t know if you picked up the latest Epigram. I don’t blame you if you haven’t, because the Epigram is a paper seemingly written by people who already believe they’re living a life of mortgages and insurance.

Given their usual failure to deliver anything anyone particularly wants to read, it comes as no surprise their editor, Queen of the Beige, doesn’t like the Spotted in the ASS Facebook page.

Epigrump: Not a fan of Spotted In The ASS or fun

You may think I’m being deliberately antagonistic, combative, or even just plain prickish to take such a harsh stance against one journalist’s opinion. And although yes, those are all fun things to be, on this occasion I am trying to make a sensible point.

Not only is Spotted in the ASS Library simply harmless fun (what couldn’t be
fun about wonderful entries such as #163: “farting when wearing headphones is not silent…. and going bright red isnt [sic] subtle either……”) those strongly opposed to it represent something far more troubling than occasional toilet humour or sexual innuendo.

The Epigram editor is concerned with reputation. She writes: “The crude, base humour that characterises the Facebook page runs counter to Bristol’s reputation as a dignified, friendly institution”.

In other words, stop devaluing my degree by making my university look bad.

Here we have a paper which claims to be the voice of Bristol students, and yet it opposes a Facebook page consisting of a far more representative student voice. They don’t like it because it’s crass and crude, but most of all, they don’t like it because it’s funny.

4,315 likes and growing everyday

If Spotted in the ASS weren’t funny, there would be no problem. People would quickly tire of cruel jibes and sexism if the whole thing weren’t clearly tongue-in-cheek, and this is exactly what happened in the case of less successful spin-offs such as “Spotted in the Gym”.

Bristol students are, for the most part, well-educated adults. They are perfectly capable of deciding what they do and don’t find offensive without guidance and most can tell a joke apart from something genuinely intended to wound.

Spotted in the ASS, it should be pointed out, is not a free-for-all, or an amphitheatre of un-vetted shit-throwing. It’s moderated (allegedly by “independent newspaper” Vantage) and the stuff that makes it through has a high chance of at least making us smile, if not outright guffaw.

Image is a sensitive subject for the University of Bristol. The university I call home sits uncomfortably somewhere between the dizzying heights of Oxbridge and the rest of the Russell group pile.

Are anxieties about Spotted all due to the “Oxbridge inferiority complex”?
Photo: foshie (Flickr)

When someone sees University of Bristol written on a CV, it’s meant to evoke an image of hardworking students, intellectual discourse and academic achievement. By that count, Spotted in the ASS is not our finest export.

But there’s a reason why the league tables have absolutely no interest in how students spend their spare time. There is no survey of alcohol consumption or drug use, no enquiry into how friendly we are, what we do on nights out or our sexually transmitted disease rates (although it would be nice to finally see a league table that UWE could top).

That’s because none of these things actually matter to employers. What we do in our spare time is our own business and has no reflection on the standard of teaching or academia at the University or even the overall attitude of the students. If it did we
would have shut down Lizard Lounge years ago.

Lizard Lounge: a safe haven for crude behaviour

Spotted in the ASS is fun. It’s an entertaining respite from the drab monotony of exam-oriented study. It’s irresponsible, badly-behaved, crude and embarrassing, but if your time at university is lacking any of those adjectives then you’re probably missing out.

Eventually there will be things in life that just aren’t funny, because life is serious. I just don’t see why we should be making a head-start.