Photo [University of St Andrews]

Is the University Passing the Buck on Sport?

Read Arthur’s opinion on how the university is handling sport this year.

Principal Mapstone has been outspoken in her criticism of students acting ‘against advice’ during this pandemic. When there is a spike it is due to the actions of students in spite of the precautions of the university. Whereas, when cases are low, it is wholly attributable to the measures taken by the university. Both of these things cannot be true. Either the university is solely responsible for the actions of students taken in response to coronavirus and must own every failure as well as every success, or the university should be trusting its students to do the right thing and stop being so authoritarian. Perhaps nowhere is this muddled and contradictory approach from the university more obvious than in the case of its sports program.

The university got off to a rotten start in terms of sport. Students were thrilled to receive a refund from the university for our sports memberships upon being sent home. However, this was rendered worthless by the decision to raise AU Membership and effectively steal back the refund. Increased fees should indicate increased services on offer. However, the AU has radically cut back its services by ending Sunday League, Futsal, Six-a-side, limiting gym numbers, stopping competitive fixtures and as well as many other things. Furthermore, while dramatically reducing its costs through its cancellation of many popular programmes, the University AU also saw it fit to increase their fees. This demonstrates the level of contempt with which sports are being treated.

Photo [University of St Andrews]
When it comes to the measures taken by the university since the start of term, they have not fared much better. Online tracking forms and hand sanitizer are undoubtedly useful, with their aim clearly being to limit the spread both within and beyond each sports team. Nonetheless, once on the pitch all hell breaks loose in terms of coronavirus prevention, showing the university really has not thought things through.

Photo [Wikimedia Commons]
Are we allowed to play a contact sport as it is outside, therefore meaning it is safer for coronavirus? If that is the case, why are university security kicking small groups off the beaches as those are also outside and often even more distanced than a sports match. This logic clearly does not add up.

Are we allowed to play sport because we are taking preventative measures by sanitizing and using contact-tracing? But if that is all that is necessary why was the university so hesitant to have in-person teaching from the beginning of term? Such measures are by no means novel.

Or, most worryingly, is the reason the university allows us to play contact sports because they recognise that young, healthy students are at a very low risk to coronavirus? Has the university finally accepted the fact that students are just as likely to be murdered by a St Andrews seagull as they are to personally suffer from contracting the coronavirus? The science, in particular the Great Barrington Declaration, shows that young people are effectively invulnerable to the virus. This would certainly suggest it is safe for students to play sport outside and, if that is why the university allows it, it is a sensible decision. However, as before, one must then ask why the university cannot extend such a recognition to areas beyond sport. Why is the university fining students for having a mere single friend round to their flat or for gathering in small groups outside when the risk is equally low?

Photo [Wikimedia Commons]
The greatest frustration throughout this pandemic has been the inconsistency of the rules proposed by the government and the university, which take differing approaches towards sport, academics and socialising. It is great students can continue to participate in sport, however the student experience would improve significantly if the university extended a similar freedom to the other areas where it is currently trying to impose itself upon students and control their lives.

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