Joke event ‘Storm Sidge, Toope can’t stop us all’ creates worry for University staff

‘We deserve more than lectures on Zoom and foreboding talk of a global gloom’

In response to the news that all lectures will be online next year, Cambridge student Joel (who wishes to remain partially anonymous for the time being) decided to take action – not by protesting, not by submitting an enraged Camfess, but by parodying an old favourite from the colourful world of Facebook events: ‘Storm Area 51’.

Joel created a spin-off Facebook event, ‘Storm Sidge, Toope can’t stop us all*’, set for the 8th October. At the time of writing, 140 students have already shown interest.

The event comes with a disclaimer in its description that: “Due to rumors of interest from the Uni and or lawyers (wish I was joking) I can confirm this is a joke based on a popular meme (see “Storm Area 51″) and that no actual storming is planned or condoned.”

When asked about said rumours, Joel tells The Cambridge Tab: “I can’t offer details (I was told not to) but a disclaimer had to be issued due to suggestions that those of a different generation less au fait with the meme were becoming concerned there would genuinely be some kind of actual rampage.

“I wish to make it clear to our sagely lecturers that no rapscallions are going to burst into Lady Mitchell Hall.”

Joel is not the first to get into a misunderstanding with the University around meme culture – a similar event in Michaelmas to ‘Storm the Fellows Garden’ at Tit Hall became controversial when the college lawyered up. The creators of the event told The Cambridge Tab: “There were a load of emails going around about the leadership of this event, mostly from the college lawyers, who were highly concerned about the damage that hordes of angry students might do. Apparently they were a bit out of the loop with the whole Area 51 thing…”

Photo Credit: Author’s Own Screenshot

Even without an actual storming, Joel’s event exists in opposition to the University’s handling of decisions for the next academic year: “Sidge is the beating heart of many people’s Cambridge experience. The buttery and Selwyn and Newnham cafes bustle in term time. I tried to encapsulate the communal sense of disheartenment by resurrecting the Area 51 meme which I assumed would be familiar to many meme connoisseurs. In all seriousness though, the social aspect of learning is incredibly important for many people’s mental health. The comradery that is forged whilst learning together is hard to replicate.”

It wasn’t just the decision about lectures that inspired this impromptu practical joke, but a seeming lack of communication from the University about these decisions. In his event description, Joel poses the question: “Why are we finding out about this through Varsity? It’s not like Stevey T has been restrained when it comes to emailing…”

He said: “I know many students found it rather peak that CNN, the BBC, and most national newspapers had picked up the story long before the University got in touch with their students. We understand that they’re in a very difficult position but the lack of communication has led to many people thinking that next year had been moved online when this is definitely not the case.”

Yesterday, The Cambridge Tab  interviewed Senior-Pro-Vice-Chancellor Graham Virgo, who expressed similar concerns about the leak, which had the potential to “suggest that everything is online and that could not be further from the truth.”

Even though the leak was unintentional, Joel argues that the University can still do more to communicate with its students about the upcoming year. “I think it’s important to delineate the difference between contingency planning and concrete decisions.”

And he isn’t alone. Other students have come forward to express concerns about a lack of clarity on a University and college-wide level. Second year historian Jake Keisner describes his immediate reaction to Joel’s event: “It was pretty funny but I couldn’t overcome my disappointment with the University. Most of all I have been disappointed with Magdalene. There has been no effort to respond to these stories and reassure undergraduate students who are worrying about if we will even return. Its a failure of comms that I am getting my reassurance from Selwyn’s Master and his tweets, rather than my own.”

Now that more substantial updates have been given on teaching in the next academic year, Joel chooses to stand by his lighthearted attempt at expressing concern, leaving us on a short but instructive piece of advice for the University moving forward: “Leak less, email more.”

Cover Image Credit: Sebastian Ballard, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons licence

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Interview: Graham Virgo on online lectures, fresher deferrals, the news leak and fees