College-mandated ‘quiet periods’ are damaging student welfare
They’re patronising at best, detrimental to mental health at worst
When you apply to Cambridge, you are told that the college you apply to doesn’t matter, that they are all the same. This simply isn’t true.
Colleges in Cambridge differ in almost every regard. Some offer extravagant travel grants so their students can go jetting off to Vietnam for ‘dissertation research’ (read: relive your gap year). Others have to scrape the barrel just to let you stay in college whilst you commute to your underpaid, undervalued summer internship in London.
We all know these divides are unfair: it shouldn’t be allowed that some students have better provision than others. Yet where Cambridge colleges seem to differ the most is in their approach to exam term.
The other day, I was talking to somebody from a different college about ‘quiet period’ and was stunned to discover they didn’t know what it was. In several colleges, including my own, there are signs plastered all over social spaces that dictate “THIS IS THE QUIET PERIOD YOU MUST NOT ENJOY YOURSELF AT ALL”.
Well, not quite literally that – but they do limit formals, guests to college, and insist that we’ll be thrown out of the bar for any loud disruption. From the moment you step into the plodge there is a suffocating cloud of stress. The library and study rooms are packed from 8am – 11pm, with gloomy students staring out of the window longing for the champagne-spraying freedom that will inevitably come. Occasionally you will see somebody at dinner that you haven’t seen in two weeks as they’ve not left their room. For some reason this is seen as acceptable.
For many, college-mandated ‘quiet periods’ are simply patronising. They might read a letter thrust into their pidge, perhaps laugh at the tone, then ignore it and go about their own revision schedules.
Yet for others, the nagging feeling that college is forcing you to work can undermine your self-confidence. Libraries and study rooms being open 24/7 make the college a hostile environment – one in which incredibly valuable relaxation time is undermined as it is dominated by the constant reminder that we need to work.
Last year I made myself physically sick revising for prelims, forcing myself to stay just one minute longer in the library than the other historians. Fortunately this year, I have put things into more of a perspective. Yet just how isolating revision can be was still a shock when I returned for the beginning of Easter term.
I know I’m not the only one. The results of the Big Cambridge Survey showed that just 36% of undergrads felt Cambridge was a healthy and positive place to study. Despite the concerted efforts of the University, something is still inherently wrong.
As much as outlets like the Daily Mail like to brandish Cambridge students mayhem-causing hooligans on occasions like C-Sunday, every single one of us worked hard to get here. We’re hardly going to throw it away now. Having colleges dictate to us times when we must be silent, or times when we are allowed to enjoy ourselves, is highly damaging.
Regardless of how much colleges try to focus on mental health in exam term, as long as they attempt to impose restrictions that send colleges into ‘lockdown’, they are always going to do more harm than good.