An Englishman’s Home is his Castle?
JENNY DELL resents rising fresher numbers meaning Castle third years are left out in the cold.
For those of you in a college where living-in in third year is a sign that you either still haven’t made any friends, or that the friends you thought you had in second year actually hate you, it might be a bit difficult for you to sympathise with the problems facing a large number of Castle third years this January.
In Castle, usually third year students return en masse to the confines of our glamorous Keep, newly refurbished don’t-cha-know. I realise it’s this sort of attitude which earns Castle it’s reputation for snootiness, but if you have been lucky enough to visit the certainly-less-than-glamorous confines of Moatside Court, Castle’s fresher accommodation next to La Tasca, I don’t think we can be begrudged a redeeming year up on Palace Green too much.
Many a poor fresher parent has had all their fears about abandoning their vulnerable baby melt away at the sight of the grand and siege-proof Great Hall, only to have them reappear with a frightening jolt at the tall iron gates down the road at Moatside prison.
However, three consecutive years of large fresher intake has now caused something of an accommodation crisis in Castle, where over sixty second years who planned to live in for their final year of study were notified just before Christmas that they have not been allocated a room.
Knowing as we all do that good houses in Durham are like the best schools – you need your name down since birth – for these sixty, having to trawl the Viaduct for the last dregs of available housing is not an agreeable prospect.
In addition to the problems finding housing at this late stage, having as many third years as possible in college is crucial to the atmosphere of Castle. As the founding college of the University, it is almost inevitable that we have some of the oldest traditions and customs, and it is the responsibility of the older years to pass these on to the fresh.
Under two thirds of those who applied for a second year living have been guaranteed a room. The fewer third years living in, the less contact there is between the year groups, and the opportunity to maintain the identity of the college diminishes.
It also seems unfair that third years are now missing out on the chance to spend a year living inside the building that gives us such an identity. Having survived a year in grotty Moatside, third years rightly feel that they have earned their right to the famous chat up line ‘Have you ever slept in a Castle?’.
The fresher accommodation for Castle is considerably worse than I’ve seen in other colleges, but it’s tolerated because some of our rooms are very special indeed. Students who were expecting on their year in luxury compared to the shoebox lifestyle of a fresher have actually between rewarded with (albeit temporary) homelessness.
This is surely set to have a knock on effect in other colleges as well. The shortage of housing in Durham already means that the rush to sign begins before we’ve even had time to unpack our bags, and with less older students able to live in, the demand is only going to get higher.
Admittedly, there are plenty of houses further afield than the one-mile radius of Tesco that we refuse to explore beyond, but part of the charm of Durham is that you never live more that fifteen minutes from your friends, you don’t need a car, and we avoid at all costs the boredom of public transport.
With fees rising to the £9,000 limit next year, I can’t see that the University are going to be turning the applicants away; nor can I imagine that building a tower block in front of the Cathedral is going to get past town planning. It looks like Castle will be joining the two-years-out camp of colleges in the foreseeable future.