In the Evening Standard, Sam Leith unburdens himself of his thoughts on today’s undergraduates as they are returning to classes in the UK this week. He opens with a passage from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Decline and Fall where Junior Dean Sniggs is counting up the fines he will collect from the Bollinger Club’s high spirits. Leith continues:
New figures find that over the last three years, £350,000 of fines were levied on students for antisocial behaviour — and there’s been a 16 per cent rise in the last year…Each new generation invents its own new way of being the pits. Look back through the annals of time and at every significant point in history there has been a student behaving like a pillock. Decline and Fall gives us student pillocks; Lucky Jim gives us student pillocks a generation later; The Young Ones gives us student pillocks a generation after that; Fresh Meat a generation after that. And what’s the first half of Romeo and Juliet but a bunch of students being pillocks? Don’t get me started on Hamlet.
After thinking it over, Leith decides it’s best to :
…let students be pillocks. Punish them, by all means. But fining them for drunken misbehaviour, the singing of ribald songs and wheelie bin-related hijinks is to further enmesh them in our glumly transactional world. We already soak them for tuition fees, the better to enrich members of the rent-seeking Vice-Chancellor class. Let’s stop there. We are all, at one time or another, the Bollinger Club. We don’t have to grow up to be Mr Sniggs.