“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”: but if it is, please do

Student Life

The College attitude towards the safety of its students and the maintenance of its properties is a very confusing one. Paving slabs which weren’t broken have been totally replaced outside my building.  A wall which didn’t need painting has been repainted in the same shade of ‘beige hearing aid’ as it was before.  A potentially useful handrail has had its ‘No Bikes Allowed’ sign re-stencilled just in case anyone wanted to secure their bikes somewhere convenient.

Bafflingly, though, the light in our kitchen remained broken for nearly three months.  They also have not installed a window bigger than a letterbox or fixed the extraction fan above the stove.  After all, what could possibly go wrong with 6 students cooking in the semi-darkness in a room slowly filling with smoke?  I mean, when I cook anything more complex than a mushroom I’m pretty sure I singlehandedly raise the carbon emissions of Oxfordshire by a noticeable chunk.

To the cynical eye, it seems as though College only really care about what can be seen from the outside.  Why look after your undergraduates when there are conference guests to impress, and tourists to shine for?  They won’t care that washing machines don’t work, as they’re not the ones lugging huge bags of pants from one building to another.  They won’t care that the sink is blocked and smelly because they’re not the ones who have to live off slowly wizening fruit and vegetables for a week before it gets fixed and the kitchen is useable again.  Fixing it yourself with bleach or similar chemicals is bafflingly forbidden as well.  I imagine it’s in case you accidentally pour the bleach into your own eyeballs, or mistakenly buy industrial strength plumbing-eating acid instead.  You know what these undergraduates are like…

After all these indications about how our wellbeing is not exactly a priority, I do find it particularly unusual what College has chosen to ban in our rooms.  It wasn’t until 3rd year that I was deemed responsible enough to have access to a toaster.  My friend’s fairy lights (or ‘fiery inferno death machines waiting to happen’, as College knows them), are strictly forbidden, despite having had then on her various notice boards since first year with hardly any fatalities at all.  They are completely fine with you banging nails into a plaster wall, but you’re not allowed blu-tack because unlike a 2 inch nail it might… damage the wall?

And when they do take an interest in our lives and try to help, it’s in the spirit of a blundering giant causing more damage than they’re fixing.  Out of the blue, a (working) fridge and freezer was replaced in my kitchen with a slightly smaller version.  Why?  What went through the various heads of the people making up the preposterously complex web of College admin and maintenance that lead to that decision being made?  I know there is a broken fridge that’s been sitting in Bodicote since Autumn, acting as a big smelly doorstop, so maybe that’s where this new one was destined and they just missed by a couple of hundred feet.  And if you try to get hold of your own fridge in the meantime, it will be confiscated and, in their most galling move yet, will make you pay for its storage.  All to protect you from hazards so obvious I don’t feel the need to elaborate.

I’ve been told there has been an intention to replace all the worn out mattresses in College accommodation.  I can tell has not been kept because at about 2am after Park End I can hear all the springs in chorus like a flock of dying birds.