Posted tagged ‘Alkis Gerd’son’

Time to leave the campus?

January 30, 2010

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.