Seriously Students, Shun The Snobbery

Whilst there are many things about Southampton University, SUSU and Wessex Scene that are worthy of genuine commendation, it’s difficult to resist the allure of writing a wholly negative article. […]

Whilst there are many things about Southampton University, SUSU and Wessex Scene that are worthy of genuine commendation, it’s difficult to resist the allure of writing a wholly negative article. Admittedly, I might better spend my time focusing on recent attempts at rapprochement between The Tab and Wessex Scene, rather than opening up controversies that could multiply the kind of behaviour that I wish to see subside. But my pursuit of a fulfilling University experience is dampened and embittered when snobbery diseases the flank of the student body politic, and so I’m compelled to speak.

To claim that I’m above it all in a tower of ivory morals would be ridiculous; I’m not absolved of the charge of snobbery and pedantry on occasion. Certainly it’s hypocritical for me to criticise this trait in others, but that doesn’t make the analysis any less true or the effects any less unsavoury. In fact I’d argue that snobbery can be a reflexive, unconscious decision when you socialise in a university such as Southampton, where the culture of carping is lapped up as readily as the trusty Jesticle. It’s time we sobered up.

Take as an example of this culture the type of comments that are frequently left upon Wessex Scene and Soton Tab articles, which typically attack students for the apparently poor content of their writing. In the comments section of an article about society infighting, a catalogue of criticism from one student began with the stab:

“How come you’ve written 18 articles, yet none of them actually contain any content?”

After challenges from other students, he defended his attack with claims such as:

“Unlike me though, most of her articles are… recipes.”

“Like… what even IS this article? It’s like a pitiful cry for help, not even a vague attempt at journalism.”

A more sober comment from another student suggested that the article could do with more “refinement.”

But the charge is still the same, that there is an amateurish quality about the student’s writing that the commentators see themselves as exempt from, despite the fact that like the rest of the student body, neither (to my knowledge) are employed as professional journalists. They share in the rank of amateur alongside the rest of us. If the first commentator believes in one elitist standard rather than giving students scope for development according to their own interests, then they’re criticising The Scene for abiding by the principle of the liberal media. Inconsistently, they later celebrate this principle for giving them the scope to spout what can reasonably be classed as narrow minded nastiness, which could permanently destroy the confidence of aspiring student journalists. Why are we judging students for an alleged lack of verve as if they’re supposed to be Shakespeare or Hitchens? It’s absurd.

Articles about recipes are criticised as if food is not a primary concern of the student, denizen of Dominos and native of Nandos. Likewise, articles about society infighting are deemed irrelevant, when the politics and infighting of societies is an issue that directly affects all students, however hard they try to avoid the hecklings of the herd. But comments on the Wessex Scene are spared the venom sometimes saved for The Tab, presumably boiled up in the vacuum left when insight and empathy departed for pastures new.

For example, in a response to an obviously humorous Tab article calling for a ban on first years entering the library, one student opined:

“This is the Soton Tab we’re talking about. Ignorant opinion and sensationalist articles are the sort of thing you tend to expect.”

Admittedly this is a late response to the comments on the SUSU Scribblers article, but clearly this was not an isolated incident. The comments are indicative of a wider trend at Southampton, one I suspect the noble Tab was conceived to countervail. I can’t be the only person who naively sauntered in to University hoping to experience the romantic ideal of the 1960’s: fun, frolics and fraternity. This was never going to materialise, but receiving the condescending stuffiness and grandeur of the 1860s is really a paltry alternative.

The stuffy have the democratic right to criticise as they see fit, but I also have the right to say: enough. Our high horses may seem comfortable, the words we wield can make for a wonderful bayonet, but the smug satisfaction gained by trampling over the efforts of other students is vain, shallow and (now I’m going to sound like a stuffy hypocrite myself) a disgrace to the University.