By Orla McCarthy
There has been a disproportionate amount of blame being put onto students and young people across both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. From articles stating that the rise of COVID-19 cases falls to the ignorant under 30s’ to government officials making comments about how it’s all the fault of the 18-20 age groups for throwing “illegal raves”. However, the tipping point came for the mass majority of students in the calling to ban them from restaurants and bars, if they are living in student accommodation.
This decision not only marginalising the student population from the rest of society by singling this them out as the main culprits, it also harms the very industries that these students rely on financially as part-time and even full-time work. These students are being kicked while they are on the ground. They have not only lost out on their access- to work, an appropriate standard of education, to sport, recreational activities, opportunity’s for socialisation, freshers, prom, exams, their last day of school- they have now lost the only safe space they have to socialise.
These are all activities that the generations before ours have taken for granted, opportunities that have shaped them to be the people that they are today. The government and our educational institutions have asked us to give up on such things for the sake of our grandparents and parents, to the extent of which there is a threat that we may not even be able to go home for Christmas.
As a student myself, I can more than acknowledge that there are students who flout and disregard the laws that have been put in place to minimise the spread of the virus by throwing large parties and mass gatherings. Even though I don’t condone their actions I sympathise with the sentiment of the life that they feel they are missing out on. However, such students are in the minority.
The push to ban students from bars and restaurants will foreseeably have the exact opposite affect intended. It is assumable that this move is to try and reduce the contact that students have with one another. However, taking away the only safe avenue for students to responsibly socialise will push them towards anti- social and now illegal methods of socialising.
There is currently a legal limit permitting individuals to meet with one other household externally from your own in public, this applies to every other adult in society. But what is it that makes it right to marginalise the student population by making the over arching assumption that 300,000 students in Scotland are going to flout this rule without observing that other adults will do the exact same.
With no safe avenue for socialisation students who would have originally followed the guidance put in place may now decide to flout the rules out of desperation. They can no longer meet a friend in a safe indoor environment, the next best location is a park or an outdoor location, however, as we have seen from the reports over summer it’s likely that this move will be called ‘anti-social’ behaviour. Where will these students go?
The entire country has spent around 6 months in some form of lock down to control the virus. For the most part the population complied, and we are just now beginning to get back onto our feet. The student population has been there too, they have gone through the exact same sacrifices, and beyond, as the rest of the adult population. If the country requires to go back into some form of lockdown, as the cases are rising again, in order to protect the NHS and the older population, then that is a sacrifice that must be made by the society as a whole not just the student population.
There is a historic trend of the older generation choosing to place the burden of society’s downfalls onto the younger generation. For example this quote from Hull Daily Mail in 1925 stated:
“We defy anyone who goes about with his eyes open to deny that there is, as never before, an attitude on the part of young folk which is best described as grossly thoughtless, rude, and utterly selfish.”
This optimises the decades long trend of blanket blaming and singling out the younger generation for merely existing. The government and our educational institutional leaders are treating us as those before us treated them, however now they have the means to punish us for having been born between 1998-2003.
It was the choice of our University to re-open our campuses and allow students back to halls of residence, an opportunity most students took up on in order to maintain a semblance of normalcy to an already chaotic year. If governing bodies are going to treat us like infants by taking away our rights to police ourselves as adults, then they must take account for their decisions as the adult presence to encourage the students back into halls of residence which is implicitly designed with the aim of socialisation.
This move not only places sole blame onto students but also highlights a complete disregard for student’s mental health and well-being. There are countless examples of individuals who complained that the full lockdown from March to July was damaging on the mental health of populous. However, they are more than supportive of students moving far away from home just to be told that they are not allowed to go home and are now stuck inside unable to socialise with anyone other than the five strangers they just met.
This move is anxiety inducing as is, without the blame of restating a global pandemic sitting upon your shoulders. Students need support, not punishment. A valid critic of this piece is that I only feel this way because I myself am a student and I am directly in the firing line of the media. Though this may be true, I still have the luxury of being close to home, a luxury few students have.
There is no disregard for the global pandemic that is going on in our mist and it is likely that further measures will come into effect in order to maintain the growth of the virus. However the plea is not for the end to lock down or restrictive measures, it is to instead, put an end to the marginalisation of the student population, by not only placing restrictions on them, but the rest of the adult population, that they have rightfully grown to be a part of.