I’ve forgotten exactly when I found out. It must have been months ago, being pestered to check next year’s calendar for the ritual of holiday-planning. But there it was. In the middle of a long list of St Andrews’ semester dates, blending in quite unassumingly to the other weekdays, months and numbers.
Wait…what? Did that say the 25th of December? As in CHRISTMAS DAY 25th of December? This must have been some sort of error – administrative mistakes like this happen all the time. Surely they meant one or two weeks before. After all, what kind of person organises exams to be just one week behind Christmas, the holiday we are told since childhood is the most wonderful time of the year? I’ll tell you who – the sadistic Grinches who have infiltrated the most senior ranks of the University’s administration.
But is this assessment fair? The administration staff at St Andrews have a huge amount of responsibility and, to my knowledge at least, rarely incur criticism. They work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the smooth-running of almost every aspect of university life, their successes never thanked, and their hard work a mere expectation of our student experience. As such, I’d usually be reluctant to condemn such an invaluable part of all of our lives. But this time, I make an exception.
This cock-up of enormous proportions has the potential to ruin the Christmases of the very people ensuring the survival of the university as an institution. First, there are the ethical matters of having exam week so close to Christmas. It can’t be right to position one of the most stressful times of the year in what is supposed to be the most festive and joyful. Such a decision deserves moral condemnation alone. But then there are the practical problems it causes too. For instance, we don’t know when we can go home until exam timetables are released, usually well into the first semester. This means that many of us will have to make our travel arrangements at one of the most busy and most expensive times of the year.
This is stressful enough for me as someone who lives on the other side of the country. But what about the 30% of us who come from overseas? It’s not hard to imagine a seemingly minor delay or mistake while travelling resulting in missing Christmas altogether. For a university that is so dependent on its international student body, it is surprising that the administration haven’t spared the least bit of thought for them in the midst of their dreadful and heartless planning.
Talking to fellow students, most seem to have accepted their fate this Christmas with relative grace and stoicism. As other writers have pointed out, protesting isn’t an activity that comes naturally to us here in St Andrews, and perhaps I am being overdramatic. We have known our unfortunate semester dates for many, many months now, after all.
But the outrageous decision from the people who are supposed to run one of the best universities in the country deserves our indignation. Having our Christmas vacation start on Christmas Day itself will cause unnecessary stress for thousands of students and will almost certainly result in some of us being unable to share Christmas with our loved ones – a pain made worse by the fact that many students live so far away from home.
In the film, the Grinch is reformed, his heart grows three sizes and he finally learns the true value of friendship and the festive spirit. Somehow, I don’t think the Grinches that have invaded the St Andrews administration got the memo.