The nanny university?

Over the weekend I was searching through university websites and news reports on a number of different universities for quite specific purposes. A by-product of my research was something else entirely: a list of things, products and activities that these universities had banned recently. The banned items included fizzy and sugary drinks, smoking (inside and outside), rightwing political speeches, communist literature, condoms, chewing gum, social networking, kissing, streaking, spitting, alcohol, high heels, hoodies, guns, cameras, dogs, toilet paper.

My point here is not related to these individual items or activities – I will let you speculate about the reasons for some of these bans. Rather, the question I am interested in is whether universities now routinely over-regulate student life. When I was a student the only ban that I can remember – but one which exercised many students – was a prohibition in the student residences of overnight guests of the opposite sex (what we called the ‘anti-heterosexual rule’). An attempt by the university occasionally to enforce this rule was the source of significant student entertainment. But nothing much else seemed to exercise the university authorities.

Of course we are right to be concerned about issues such as public health and safety, and some rules are inevitable. But do we need to cocoon students from all experiences we would regard as questionable? Is there an appropriate level of protection beyond which we should not step? Or are we just living out the consequences of training too many lawyers?

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13 Comments on “The nanny university?”

  1. Jilly Says:

    toilet paper??!

    • Vincent Says:

      I read lately that someplace in Korea has a water treatment system where there is a ban on TP. The local council insisted that a twilight bowl avec accurate bidet-type jet is installed so that on finishing it shoots/squirts/powerhose the offending materiel leaving you to dry your tush with a towel. :-D


    • Actually, the university in question banned students from bringing toilet paper on to the campus because they were winding it round trees, benches and the like.

  2. Al Says:

    The triumph of law over reason?

  3. jfryar Says:

    I remember queues at the registry office and finance office desks as students attempted to sort out various issues, and the thinly veiled looks of utter contempt by staff having to ‘deal’ with students. I remember faculty offices giving postgrads the run-around when they pointed out the classrooms allocated for tutorials did not have enough seats to accomodate the class. ‘What are you doing here?’ became more commonly used than ‘are you lost?’ when researchers came across students wandering corridors looking for their classes. ‘But I do research …’ came the cries of self-important staff when heads of departments allocated teaching hours to them, who subsequently went and found junior staff members to consistently fill in for them.

    We all know universities are filled with jobsworths who become lords and ladies of their domain and see students as an imposition to their ‘actual’ work. And what I’m wondering is if this over-regulation of students is a symptom of a ‘universities would be great, if only we didn’t have students’ attitude that I think is becoming increasingly common, particularly in non-teaching staff …

  4. kevin denny Says:

    Too many lawyers & not enough economists: instead of banning these things (most of them are indeed pretty reprehensible, with the exception of alcohol & possibly high heels) the university could appease its liberal instincts and raise much needed cash by taxing them instead.

    • Regina Says:

      I’m not so sure Kevin. I’d say the world still needs a few fast talkers to help the economists wrangle their way out of the odd little maths problem, e.g.,

      3.6 – 3.6 = ?
      3.6 + 0 = ?
      3.6 + 3.6 = ?

      … and why you can get the same answer in each case.

      (the unit can be whatever currency you’re having yourself and its equivalence in toilet rolls at the market rate)

      • kevin denny Says:

        Thats a bit subtle for me Regina but if its a reference to the DoF cock-up then I can assure you that economists are at least not to blame for that: DoF generally being an economics free-zone.

  5. Mary Says:

    How many of these were banned by universities and how many by students’ unions? Some of them look a lot more like the actions of an enthusiastic SU…


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