Written by a Warwick Alumni, and first published here.
I only write when I feel very strongly about something. I
don’t always rarely achieve my aspired level of social comfort and vocal stillness. I swear a lot in attempts to convey any strength of expression – there is power in a well placed “CUNTING” or “FUCKERY”. I like that.
As expressed in my initial disclaiming post, I am not a writer or communicator, (this blog will probably just be for this post to be honest) I do not often wade in with well expressed opinions or clarity of thought, but it’s fine; not only am I good at different things, but I know plenty of people who can talk and think on point and trust me they do it fucking well. So they do that, and I drink and swear.
BUT: the reason I am writing is that I am having a very strong feeling about something – not an event, or a culmination, or a midpoint, or a start, but a feeling about something synoptic and very important to me, a feeling strong enough to make me sit down and tappy tappy tappy on my clapped out laptop and say what I shitting well think. I’m not going to be ‘blogging’, that’s not going to be a thing now, at least I don’t think so – but getting my thoughts on to paper and then on to a screen gives the time and space to momentarily turn the volume down on the Richard O’Brien in my brain, so I can get through the Crystal Maze and let the words fall into a vertical perspex tube in the right order.
The feeling I want to articulate is that I am not proud of Where I Went To University. This is complex to me because Where I Went To University and The University That Taught Me are two different ideas.
Where I Went To University is a glossy A5 pamphlet printed on paper that costs more per sheet than a cuppa, with deliberately identifiable colour selections, and company approved fonts. It is a slick short story about a young set of buildings in between the City of Peace and some fields, about how those buildings and their low airspace were turned into a construction site controlled by a management which were and are the eponymous corporate glory hole of this piece. About how those who built or branded on this space made it rain that sweet sweet dollar money into the raw laps of the management, and those who pass through the young buildings for their intended purpose of education just have to live with the mess, and are charged a cunt-tensing fortune for the privilege. That sweet dollar money keeps the glory hole in luxurious working order. Fresh paint on the wall, perhaps studded padding around the hole itself for maximum comfort, definitely ample parking in the vicinity, and most importantly security guards armed with CS gas stationed nearby to prevent any yobs intruding on vital visits to the spotless, comfortable hole.
I’m not fucking proud of that. (Not not proud of glory holes, I’m fine with whatever floats folk’s boats, I’m just trying to use that complete shitty image to convey the nature ofWhere I Went To University.)
The University That Taught Me is a different work altogether. There are no logos, cordoned off areas, or spotless walls there. The University That Taught Me is made of brains. Brains of some of the best people I’ve ever met. It’s made of tutors who teach so well you go home with a cured hangover and a sword made of anger, knowledge, and referencing with which to test your next ideas. Yes you bitch about it but it’s because your brain is having to work. Tutors who teach so well that you can feel that same bitching brain downloading new software in real time except that it’s not iOS, it’s your life being quickened by the possibilities made clear by these amazing humans working from tiny offices, crammed side by side full of everything they want to give you, these humans who teach so well that their reading suggestions make you want to do oral with the library, who make you look beyond the beautiful, ordinary walls of your seminar room. Who show you their brains so you’ll show them yours. Who make you think so far outside of yourself, your background, your strength, your comfort, so that you really learn to work.
These amazing tutors who bust every nut they have so that your brain can level up, and so you can start to level up on your own. They write, they edit, they talk, they schedule, they email, they sign, they do all this from their rectangular offices full of biscuits and deadlines and stress and the undiscovered, they do it all so that people are educated. They do it so that all of this important stuff doesn’t have concrete poured on it, get painted over, or put in a glass box and just stared at. They teach us because knowledge can be power and whatever experiences – positive, or negative – you’ve had with any tutor, that fact puts us all on the same team. Their sin bin is our sin bin, we are wearing the same colours.
THAT is what a university is – brains working. Not like the Brain from Pinky & the -, not like the brains compared to the brawn of an organization, but brains working because they can and because there is work to be done. The grey squishy stuff that makes you want to fuck people, that chooses each disastrous outfit, that is your self-talk, that has such wider capacities than those simple things, that determines your life, is the basis of the realness of a university. True experience of the essence of university is all of the shit from Dead Poet’s Society, and all the shit from History boys, it’s Dumbledore’s Army, it’s getting to smoke with the gang behind the bike sheds, it’s that scene in A Clockwork Orange where his eyes are held open, it’s an episode of Time Team where they find a whole Saxon village, it’s an intellectual breakup and the ensuing discovery of BDSM and swinging, it’s carpe diem, it’s tearing pages out of books when you find them wanting, it’s a messy benediction and it’s midnight mass at 9.00am on a Thursday when you’re still drunk and have no fucking money but your bus pass got you to campus in order to motherfucking learn –
if you’ve chosen to be there, if you worked your anadin-popping stress-dreaming sixth form arse off to be there, if you’re taking a financial commitment more significant than the average modern marriage to be there, your heart is with the team that’s taught, not the team that’s bought. Or dreams that are taught, not bought. Fucking whatever. I don’t give a shit about whatever pure cheddar phrases click for you over this feeling but seriously, I think it’s important. The old school idea of university as a place of study is precious and Nigel Thrift is turning Warwick’s environs into business Disneyland. Bizneyland if you will.
The University That Taught Me isn’t a pamphlet, it’s not printed, it’s not even written. It exists continually in the people I’ve met, the ambitions I now have, the things I’ve learned, the work I will make, and my respect for those who teach like those who taught me. I would not be the calibre of hungry, hopeful, interested and motivated hot mess that I am without the people who shared their brains with me.
Where I Went To University makes me ashamed. I am exhausted with shame at how something I was a part of treats people, treats lives, treats freedom, and treats education.
The University That Taught Me is a place for which I will be forever grateful, am immensely proud to be attached to, and have huge respect for. The people under whom I studied ARE the true university, they are the heart of Warwick and should be acknowledged for the work they do – educating yobs. A dehumanizing word; and, coming from the lips of the Vice-Chancellor at the end of a summit on police brutality, a perfect illustration of the difference between Where I Went To University and The University That Taught Me.