The Nitpicker: Freshers’ Week - KSU’s annual exercise in faith

Image: Albert Camilleri

As the Nitpicker, I feel it is my duty to welcome all Freshers and returning students to this wonderful establishment. With a system that leaves literally everything to be desired, and where a contingency plan is as unheard of as a leprechaun or a humble medical student.

New students are undoubtedly still reeling from the cross between a Roman bazaar and an underwater boat tour, having faced overcrowded tents, student organisations flinging freebies at them, and The University student council — KSU — presiding over the fountain in their yearly parking permit marathon. Don’t fret Fresher, you’re not alone – truth is, even people who have been here a while still don’t know how to feel about it every year.

Image: Albert Camilleri

KSU has been trying, commendably so, to make students’ first week at University one to remember ever since Freshers’ Week’s conception, but unfortunately, it seems like every year there is a strong element of faith that goes into organizing these large-scale events. Who needs a Plan B – or even a solid Plan A – as long as it doesn’t flood, there are no accidents, politicians keep their promises, students remain orderly, and everyone understands that the KSU executive members are just doing their best.

While it is true that the flooding in the student organisations’ tent wasn’t as bad as last year, should that really be the precedent to go by? Social media posts from last year show members of KSU cleaning gutters by hand and squeezing up a storm as there was literally merchandise afloat at points. This year it only took one student to clean the gutter by hand while everyone could tend to their merchandise, were the water to go just above their slightly elevated stands. The corporate stands, meanwhile, were turned into veritable swamps. Was this KSU’s fault? Of course not, they can’t control the weather, and the University wasn’t much help after a summer of uprooting the quadrangle.

Last year saw a collapsing Bay stand; an unfortunate accident due to the tent not being able to withstand the rain. This also wasn’t KSU’s fault, but did the University help? About as much as it did this year after the aforementioned uprooting of quad by leaving construction waste and dust everywhere for KSU to clean up the night before opening. The Bay stand didn’t collapse this year, it was just being used as a hasty way to hide all the leftover rubbish underneath it.

A number of organisations complained – and rightly so – about taking time to ensure that they were at their stands when the Prime Minister came along. He must not have wanted to be confronted by Moviment Graffiti at their surprising return to Freshers’ Week. That is total speculation, of course, but then again I can’t really think of any other reason why he ignored practically half the organisations there. Even for a politician, that was kind of a d*-# thing to do. Complaining to KSU about it was then utterly useless because they really don’t have any control. They’re just as strung along by the politician like everyone else, trapped in a sea of protocol and uncomfortable synthetic suit fabrics.

Image: Albert Camilleri

You see, KSU have to have faith that their work means something because were they to admit to the students they represent that they have very, very little power to change anything, what would be the point of them being elected in the first place?

Around this time of the month in 1977, President Anton Buttigieg took offence to a student speaking about democratic values after he was attacked by political thugs. The President stormed out, and the University was the site of a terrifying political and physical assault. It was also around this time that a group of medical students chained themselves to Castille in protest of what was an infringement of democracy.

The 13 KSU members cannot make change happen – but 13,000 students can. The Rector has made it painfully clear during student consultations that active studentship means students going to their lectures. Any remote peep of any students showing any sign of independent thought or protest is tied to a carriage and dragged through comment threads in Is-Salott. We, as students, are considered state customers. We must sit down, shut up, pass our exams, and be an investment well-spent in the workforce after we graduate.

Freshers’ Week is not the problem, that would be trivial and silly of me. KSU isn’t the problem either — they are a body of 13 students trying to get their qualifications all the while intent on making University as memorable as possible. However, with the professional derision of politicians and even the University’s own administration, KSU’s initiatives can only work in so far as understandably disenfranchised students are willing to support them. My plight is to you, the Freshers and KSU in equal amounts. If you want something done, get up and find a way to do it. You have a voice, whether it is suppressed or not. If they refuse to listen, civil disobedience is not the only option, but there is always power in numbers.

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The Nitpicker

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