Time to leave the campus?

Many many years ago, when I was a student in Dublin in the College-that-cannot-be-named, I spent a year living in university accommodation. I must confess that this was not a life of luxury. I shared what I suppose you might call an apartment with one other student: we had a living room and a kitchen, and each of us had a bedroom. When I moved in around early October it was all fine and dandy: the rooms were rather quaint and not unpleasant. The kitchen was horrible, mind you; big enough for only one person at a time, and with two gas rings that were not technological state of the art. I remember that you could not always reliably switch the gas off, which made it very interesting. The kitchen had this cooker and a basin dating from the late 19th century (or so it looked), but nothing else – no fridge, for example.

But what I didn’t know in October was that, for three months at least, a refrigerator would be totally unnecessary, because one of the other things this set of rooms didn’t have was heating. There was no central heating system, and moreover you were strictly forbidden to bring in any electric heater. Indeed that prohibition was quite unnecessary, as the electric sockets were old and the wiring tricky, and any attempt to plug in anything that used more electricity than you could get by rubbing your fingers caused all fuses to blow instantly.

The other thing you discovered quickly as the weather turned wintry was that the windows didn’t really fit into the frames, and I remember many a jolly night with a strong wind when you could have flown a flag inside with the windows closed.

And you might also have noticed that I didn’t mention any bathroom. That was because there wasn’t one. And I don’t just mean there wasn’t one in the apartment, there wasn’t one in the building. Actually, I think there was a toilet, shared by about seven apartments. But if you wanted to have a shower, you had to leave the building and go to the next one, where there was a shower unit just inside the front door. When I say ‘door’, I mean that loosely, since there wasn’t actually a door in the frame. So you stood in the shower, on a wooden slatted floor, just inside the open front door with only a shower curtain to protect you.

I suppose it is enjoyable to recall all this, living there engendered a real pioneering spirit, and in a way I pity all those students today living in the lap of luxury with en suite bathrooms and microwaves. What a boring life.

But maybe not so boring, because the University of Victoria in British Columbia in Canada has just had to go to court to try to evict a man, Alkis Gerd’son, who has been in residence on the campus in a student apartment for the past 19 years; which would be extraordinary enough anyway, but in addition Mr Gerd’son isn’t even doing a course at the university. He got in when he was a genuine student, but he just stayed when he finished his programme in 1997. And now that the university has decided it really is time for him to go, he is accusing them in court of discrimination. I guess the heating works well in his apartment.

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3 Comments on “Time to leave the campus?”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Most of your fraternity would not have noticed. They would have been dragged up in conditions where waking in January and not have ice condensed on your blankets would have pointed to a wet day.
    Housing at that time was one step from sleeping out in the open. The step being the roof. And the evening sport was the hunting of the draft for it depended which quarter and how low the pressure that sneaky little b….. decided to invade. Clothes and bed clothes were always on the spectrum between damp and wet. Hotwater bottles and the splitting of same was a topic for real debate, and having bought that years bottle you hoped against hope that it was not stamped Made on Monday Morning. For like British Steel, British Rubber required that same level of study needed to pick the winner of the Gold Cup with the same uncertainty about form.

    I was listening to Pat(the P..) Kenny, yesterday.
    I was hoping for a biggish debate as what donor is going to say to a University that instead of paying down of debt, what you are going to do is build a Presidential Palace. And ‘given’ that there is an aspect of Tax Efficient Giving about this it is not simply a private matter.


    • Vincent, I presume that’s a comment about Limerick? That money really would not have been available to pay down debt – no donor (or at least, no sane donor) would ever give money to a university to pay back debts. This money was either going to be spent on this purpose or not at all. I agree that the optics of all this are not ideal, but in fairness to Limerick this was planned a few years ago before the present economic circumstances set in.

      • Vincent Says:

        FvP, today or whenever the optics of this are a bit shaky. Forget about the paying down of debt, what donor is going to say to a University, what you are going to do is build a Presidential Palace/House/Lodge. I just cannot see the conversation originating from the Donors mouth. And as to the excuse that it is needed for entertaining, well I’m sorry but a University is not a Legation, Residence or Embassy and if a bit of home-ground advantage is needed for some reason Thomond Park is the place not some glorified B&B. For lets face it, while 1.5m will build you a bit more than before, we are not talking Farmleigh or Adare.


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