Honestly, the timing of our VC’s CBE couldn’t have been worse

It’s ironic to say the least

We’re only seven days into 2021, and already Nottingham’s Vice-Chancellor, Shearer West, has been awarded a CBE, one of the highest awards that can be given to someone in England. Whilst it’s a significant personal achievement; I myself, as well as many other students, feel it as a bit of a blow.

The university is currently failing it’s students, and it’s lecturers. We have collectively been left to our own devices, to navigate a global pandemic, with current and future job prospects in jeopardy. We are all mentally, and physically drained, and sick of staring at our screens and bedroom walls. The pandemic does not care if you are an undergrad, a postgrad, an international student, or a lecturer, it makes sense that the heads of the university should have ALL of our best interests at heart, but I fail to see any meaningful change that has been implemented.

So, it’s hard not to see the irony in the VC getting a CBE, while we are sat at our desks feeling ignored.

The lack of communication from our VC has been deafening. Following the creation of the safety net for the previous academic year, students are beginning to petition for it to be reinstated, along with the coursework deadline grace period. The safety net was given based solely around one semester, one lockdown, and one set of exams last year; this academic year we have seen far more cases of COVID, more lockdowns, more rules and regulations, making it harder than ever. Both students, and lecturers, are exhausted: workloads have increased, while holidays have not, however we are all simply told to get on with it.

Students are being told to stay in, to eat out, to stay off campus, to go into campus, while being completely ignored in press conferences by the government and vilified in the media. We see on the news, every single day: the rising rate of COVID, and we are terrified. We want to see our families over the holidays, but for many it wasn’t an option. Mental health services have been gutted in previous years but are seeing more people than ever access them. The majority of us have one simple demand, to reinstate the safety net, making this year got a lot more smoothly for both students and lecturers.

When given the grace period, which many students used, lecturers then have to push back their marking, increasing the strain on them. Lecturers have had to stop striking (which the VC was remarkably silent on too) in order to completely change their courses. The shift to online learning has been handled by lecturers as well as they can, and we really do appreciate every single lecturer doing a fantastic job, but it’s been anything but smooth for even the most tech-savvy.

For decades, universities have been spaces of change, where students can speak up and speak out. I believe that we should continue that tradition, not just at UoN, but in other universities as well. We have been left by the wayside as a demographic during COVID, and the ones who are meant to help us have done nothing. You can join the Nottingham Rent Strike group, and the Nottingham Students’ Assembly on Facebook, independent groups designed to petition the heads for change.