Students are privileged by not having to answer to both the law and their peers when something goes wrong.
As I sit in my bedroom writing this article, I can’t help but think how fucking annoying it is that the traffic outside my room facing Gower Street is so loud.
This is where student privilege starts: in university provided housing, complete with a staff that alerts me to my mail and cleans my bathrooms. Though there are some downsides to living in a building owned by university where controls are set on everything From how much space you have and what appliances you can use, to how clean your room is (during the last inspection I was told to vacuum my floor), it is incredibly convenient to live across the street from the main campus, in a building where rent includes a cleaning service, water, heat, and electricity bills, and 24-hour support staff.
Last year students from Ramsay won a drawn out fine battle against the hall for cleaning fees after a party that the student body refused to pay. While the destructive party in Ramsay that caused the tense battle between students and administration was eventually blamed on “outsiders” who didn’t actually live in the house, the drawn out conflict brings up the question of how adult residents living in a normal block of flats for example would have been treated in a similar situation. Would they be allowed to continue living in a residence where they (or outsiders they brought in) caused major destruction to the building or facilities while refusing to pay for or take any sort of responsibility for that action?
This concept of outsiders is common to university settings where students can be considered “insiders.”
We as insiders get a range of privileges, including: basic housing, but also discounts to tickets for cultural events, special student codes for online shopping, and access to other events at a cheaper cost than other adults.
This is part of our student privilege and sets the basic stepping stone into the privilege pond by saying “you are special, have some free shit.” I assume that many of these promotions are a product of the idea that students are busy getting educated and therefore are unable to also hold a job at the same time and thus deserve the opportunity to attend cultural events at a lower cost.
But we no longer live in a world where a student can pay for their own education (over £9,000 not including housing or food) and as a result, education is increasingly becoming a product of luxury: available to those whose parents are able to pay for or help them get loans to cover their cost of living for 3+ years.
Education is for the already privileged, the insiders.
This insiders’ privilege can be seen across countries. For example, at a small liberal arts college in the North-east of the United States, there was recently a stabbing on the university campus that was widely publicised. Information was released that the victims were not university students but that a student was being questioned about the night events. Nothing else was reported on about this crime. There was never any follow up. The privacy of the student who committed this crime was respected in a way that would not have been had the attacker been an outsider. Schools are constantly erasing students’ wrong-doings as was done in this case and has been done in hundreds and thousands of other cases.
As insiders in the University-going club, students are not treated the same as other adults – we get away with way more. Our privilege is not only a matter of finding cheaper rail tickets but also our very unique definition of being an adult. Students are privileged by not having to answer to both the law and their peers when something goes wrong. The implications of student privilege extend from expectations of cheaper food and services to the larger issues of violence that plague campuses around the world.
Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons