Strand Poly Melancholy
You’re from King’s? You must be unintelligent.
As my second year at UCL draws to a close, there is something that is irking me, and has been for a while. I was made aware of it towards the end of last year as posters for the Varsity were splashed around campus and talk of crushing our bitter rivals was rife. This irk of mine has divided hundreds of thousands of people over nearly 200 years, yet I am certain that I am not the only one who is bothered by it. Before continuing I would like to apologise to everyone who bleeds the light blue of UCL, but here goes: I don’t hate King’s. I don’t hate anyone who goes to King’s, I don’t hate their campus (it’s very nice, actually), I don’t hate their alumni, and despite what another Buzz article may profess, their union is superb (it gains full marks for having Red Stripe on tap).
With UCL and KCL being the oldest constituents of the University of London, set up with opposing approaches to religion, there are legitimate grounds for contention. One hears glorious tales of mascots being stolen, conjuring up images of London being run amok by passionate students, clamouring over each other somewhere in Covent Garden, riveted by their collective zeal. But frankly, this probably didn’t happen and above all, I struggle to care.
My being at UCL is purely down to UCAS choices, luck and a decent set of A levels. This is no different for a KCL student. Despite the slanderous onslaughts, King’s isn’t that bad. It is counted as one of the 25 best universities in the world, in fact. Granted, UCL is too, and a lot higher up the table, but do they really deserve stick?
Don’t get me wrong, I am highly appreciative of my place here and I do feel a strong sense of loyalty, which I am sure will be life-long. I thank my lucky stars that I managed to end up at my first choice university (didn’t want to go to Oxbridge anyway…). There are others out there, however, who unfortunately fell foul of the horrendous UCAS lottery and perhaps didn’t get an offer from their first choice, despite being entirely deserving of a place. I am quite sure that there are many King’s students in this position – people who would have been welcome at UCL had their desire been more effectively communicated in 4000 characters (or 47 lines).
As an exhilarating social experiment at a party a while back, I decided to tell other UCL students that I was from King’s, just to see what the reaction was. I was met universally with sharp intakes of breath, but there was no hint of irony there. They genuinely were slightly hostile. In my guise I rolled my eyes and shrugged my shoulders at the adverse reaction, but it did make me realise that any King’s student meeting a UCL student for the first time must be waiting with baited breath for this along with a crass jibe about the Good University Guide. This experience taught me never to do it to anyone, not even ironically, because it is genuinely embarrassing.
Social functions aside, it should be remarked that, whilst we do enjoy competition with other UoL colleges, the rivalry does not burn as bright. Is this because we are all aware that LSE students have a torrid social life, but undeniably bright prospects upon graduation? The same can be said of Imperial. We all know someone at Imperial who hates it and we wouldn’t think to ridicule them because it is genuinely an upsetting place to be. Then there are the other colleges – Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, Goldsmith’s, St. George’s, SOAS – who do not exhibit the academic prowess of UCL but with whom we choose not to engage in much by way of competition. SOAS is even next door and it wouldn’t cross our minds to egg them.
What it boils down to is that it is very easy to dislike King’s, and in most cases, it serves as a uniting factor amongst our own kind – we are all UCL students and it is meant to be in our nature to turn our collective nose up at our “neighbours” on the Strand. We are essentially just carrying on the tradition of our forefathers such as Alex Zane, Ricky Gervais, Coldplay and Gandhi. I’m sure they all gag when they hear the K word.
The fact of the matter is that we should only demonstrate our passion once a year, and that is when we are all encased in a rugby stadium. The Varsity is a great event for all, but unfortunately winning makes our rugby teams all the more unbearable and only serves to heighten the “We hate King’s” nonsense on campus. There is nothing wrong with a healthy rivalry, but come on, have the nous to realise that it is all thanks to UCAS.