You are not the voice of the homeless

The reaction to homeless Jacob’s four A*s offer explains why everyone thinks we’re a bunch of toffs

Every year, the Daily Mail infiltrates Cambridge to depict the university and its entire student population as a bunch of toffs. Every year, we all rush to social media – angry and frustrated – to criticise its sensationalist diatribe.

But when our own student journalists at Cambridge invent stories in the same way we applaud them and commend their attempt to – allegedly – bash the Establishment.

When news broke out that Jacob Lewis, a homeless student from Cardiff, had made it to Cambridge to read Law in the face of homelessness and social deprivation, we were all touched. Some of us started to think that Cambridge was getting its act together on access. The self-proclaimed, so-called campaigners fell silent.

And then Jacob felt the need to reveal to the press that Cambridge gave him an offer of four A*s, predictably giving ammunition to the champagne socialists who go around claiming to be the voice of the downtrodden.

Spending the night outside at a may ball doesn’t make you the voice of the homeless.

“Elitism! Classism! Welshism!” they all cried.

Minutes later, they sat at their computers watching the Facebook likes roll in from their fellow circle-jerkers. Those likes were clearly well-deserved. These attention-seekers obviously knew Jacob’s AS and GCSE results; his predicted grades; what he wrote in the Cambridge Law Test and how he performed in his interviews.

Most importantly, however, they knew the exact reasons behind the college’s supposedly outrageous offer. It’s blindingly obvious.

They wanted him to fail in his quest to reach our hallowed university. The Director of Studies in Law at Hughes Hall is an odious, intentionally regressive bastard who gets a kick out of it every time an underprivileged student misses their offer. “I knew it – another peasant fails again!”

Hughes Hall: fucking over the homeless since 2015… apparently.

If this is starting to sound like a conspiracy theory, that’s because it is just that: unfounded and hyperbolic speculation by bored students with nothing better to do over the summer but take to Facebook in a wholly unjustified attack on the university.

Don’t get me wrong, Cambridge is not a bastion of equality, fairness and justice, far from it. One retired Professor told me at matriculation without a shred of irony that I “clearly wasn’t from this country” because I didn’t know what to do with the port.

Cambridge isn’t perfect – we know that.

If you let the port touch the table, you’re obviously foreign

But there is a lot that we do not know in Jacob’s case. Every Cambridge offer is personal and well thought out – that is why we all had to go through a month of anxiety waiting for the verdict. We can’t simply make a judgment about the legitimacy of the offer without access to Jacob’s UCAS application. We have to go on facts. So what do we know?

We know that a) Hughes Hall is a mature college; b) that most students who go there already have a degree under their belt – last year’s cohort was made up of first-class graduates from all around the world; and c) that Jacob comes from a very underprivileged background.

So, objectively, Jacob’s application may have not been as strong as most applicants to Hughes Hall who have a degree. But, of course, there must be room for subjectivism, and his homelessness must contribute – but not hijack – the decision making process.

It is obvious that there is going to be a tension between assessing Jacob compared to the other applicants and on the basis of his personal circumstances. In other words, we have here competing notions of equality and fairness, which academics, policy makers and our highest courts have struggled over since Aristotle.

The “campaigners” for the underprivileged have a simple solution to resolve this conundrum; filter out nuance, reduce everything to the superficial, use a cheeky hashtag and, lo and behold, you’ll be rolling in the Facebook likes. You might even assuage your do-gooding conscience at the same time for all those black tie dinners you went to last year.

Still not happy yet circle-jerkers?

Like Jacob, I had to work during my A-Levels; I too spent many nights on friends’ sofas. I went to the 14th poorest school in the country. Unlike Jacob, however, I received the ‘standard’ A*AA offer to read Law. Similarly, a fellow second-year lawyer, who, like Jacob, also went to a Welsh comprehensive also received an A*AA offer.

It is entirely unjustified, then, to use one case to accuse Cambridge of institutionalised elitism and classism. Hughes Hall is one college – a mature College, where there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ offer.

So, Cambridge journalists and “campaigners”, the next time you decide to try to be a Daily Mail journalist, remember that’s all you are. And who wants to be a Daily Mail journalist?

You are not the voice of the homeless, the weak, the poor or the downtrodden. You are just making us look like toffs.

Get over yourselves.