School of soft knocks

Euan McTear

I reckon University life could do with a bit of a mean streak.

It’s great that most students come to Glasgow University and others across the country and leave with a degree, a pile of debt and (almost) no experience of abuse or of having their lunch money stolen. But it’s just all a bit too nice and that’s not a good thing for the next stage of our careers: actually going into the world of work.

The thing is that we students are no more than a few years away from being in a real job in that big bad world out there. And we’ll be arriving straight from this little University Avenue bubble of niceties.

First things first, people like those on the Students Representatives Council (SRC) do a really great thing. They help students with academic issues, with problems at home, with stresses, with anything really. Yet in the world of work there won’t be all these good souls looking out for your needs.

In an office there won’t be, for example, a Welfare Week, nor a de-stressing puppy cuddling event nor a team campaigning to change the office water supplier due to some ethical issue that nobody was really aware of.

There might be a sexist song like Blurred Lines that comes on the office radio, but – I’m sorry to tell you – there won’t be an outcry and a campaign and a meeting to ban it. Chances are that you’ll just have to bear it and listen to that terrible song once in a while.

That very same day, you may get an email from a colleague which details his “crazy weekend” or which rants about a “mad client.” Obviously that isn’t 100% PC with mental health awareness such an important issue. Once again, however, it’ll just have to be ignored and taken for what it is: the way the real world works.

All these campaigns that the SRC and similar groups organise to rid everything imperfect from our campus are great. However, in the world of work, there simply isn’t time or the desire to aim for a completely perfect working environment. Of course it would be great if every little issue could be tackled, but when there are targets and deadlines to be met, the mentality is to just let the little office issues go. I know most students on this campus will be well aware of that, but there are certainly some who will be arriving at their new job expecting everything to be as PC and perfect as at this University.

We have to wake up though, and accept that we will one day be called a “cunt” at work by someone or other (and if not, then we won’t have been doing the job properly). When that day comes, there won’t be a tutor or SRC representative to go running to.

I’ve worked in plenty of offices before – one before I started my degree and a couple more during. I’ve done so for a total of over four years and while that may not seem like a lot, it’s been more than enough time to realise that the change from University to a job in the real world is a transition unlike any other. You can’t spend several years at a university where you can complain about the slightest little offense caused and then move into the real world and expect to have your comments similarly taken on board from day one.

This is why I’m arguing that it would be better for all of us if the University was a little bit meaner. Right now we spend four years (roughly) in this bubble of niceties, political correctness and campaigns for every little thing that’s wrong on campus.

It’s good that things work well here on campus and that morals are an important part of life. That’s not, however, how it works in the real world. This is a simple truth and is why it might be better if university prepared us for entering that real world by acting a bit more like it and less like an unrealistic ideal.

Disneyland is more comparable to the real world than a university campus. Upon leaving University Avenue, some of us will be in for a major shock.



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