Readers who haven’t yet ventured back onto campus may be wondering what it’s like these days. Allow subtext to be your guide.
Barclays Bank has gone (currently it’s being used as the Parcel Collection Point), meaning there are now no banks on campus at all, but WH Smith is back! If you’ve not been visiting campus over the last eighteen months then you may not have realised that Smith’s had gone at all, but as one of the first shops to go when the apocalypse hit, seeing it return in mid-September was rather reassuring. The campus asymptomatic COVID-19 testing site is now located in the University Library basement – students and staff can either drop in or book in advance.
This year’s Big New Building is the Management School’s ‘West Pavilion’, which looks nothing like a pavilion and, indeed, looks highly uninspiring from the outside. Head on in, though, and it is really very pleasant indeed, with two well-designed large lecture theatres (15 and 18) alongside several smaller theatres and plenty of office space. It’s a bit like the Engineering Building, truth be told, with plenty of visible staircases and mezzanines, only this time they remembered to include some teaching space.
Eight of the nine college bars are now open on a regular basis, the exception being the Herdwick in Graduate College, which has stayed firmly shut since the apocalypse hit. Whether this is still intended to be ‘temporary’ seems increasingly unlikely.
The marquees, put up this spring in Alexandra Square and also situated outside many bars for reasons of necessity, are mostly still here, and very pretty they look too. Plenty of picnic tables and parasol table sets too, notably in Edward Roberts Court which has become an attractive place to sit outside and dine alfresco. Obviously this atmosphere will be tricky to maintain in the Lancashire midwinter, but when the sun is out it works very well.
The arrows that guided us through a one-way vision of living have been gone since early September, as have most of the scary warning notices. It really is very similar to two years ago…
…which could be a problem, because despite the efforts of the majority of staff to encourage mask use, regular hand washing and social distancing, it’s very clear that the majority of our new students (UK domiciled ones, anyway) are very politely having none of it. They can hardly be blamed, given that last year’s ‘rules and regulations’ are now just ‘advice and guidance’, but even so, as a way of stress-testing the government’s ‘Plan A – a comprehensive approach designed to steer the country through autumn and winter 2021-22’, this term on campus will take a lot of beating. More on ‘Plan A’ (readers will be reassured to know that there is also a ‘Plan B’) can be found online at:
What are the buses like? Rarer than usual, reports your correspondent on the Number 100. For example, on 29 October, 19 buses scheduled to travel to and from campus did not run, all of them departing the bus station between 10am and 8pm. According to the drivers, the problem was (and still is) partly due to there not being enough staff, as so many left Stagecoach during the pandemic, and partly because so many of the remaining staff were (and still are) off sick. Many were (and still are) doing overtime shifts.
Since the start of October, of course, we’ve added several thousand undergraduates into our public transport system, and at peak hours the buses are standing room only.
One year ago, in subtext 195, we commented on a paradoxical state of affairs: ‘for as long as many are avoiding Stagecoach because they’re worried about the risk of travelling by bus, the numbers on the buses will remain so low that the risk is likely minimal. Alas, in true tragedy of the commons style, as soon as enough of us realise this, the numbers are likely to rise until the risk becomes something to really worry about.’ Those passenger numbers are now at their highest since March 2020.