In times like this kindness often flies out of the window but can we really blame anyone? Isn’t it all about money in the end? If we realise that, perhaps we can survive lockdown and soldier through the coming economic recession without losing too many illusions. It’s a case of money versus morality.
Let’s apply the beef burger test. After Uea(su) banned and then un-bannedbeef last year experts told us we should buy locally sourced beef to help local farmers and protect the environment. Imagine you’re wandering through a shop, browsing the shelves while socially distancing. Thanks to coronavirus you’ve lost the job helping you through uni. Do you buy the local burger or the cheaper one made with imported beef? There will be saints among us, but many of us will concentrate on how to survive with the little money we have.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised universities who’ve shut down most teaching won’t refund tuition fees. Without students’ money, some universities might have to close down for good. Losing out on international students’ fees next year could cost UEA alone around £30 million. Keeping tuition fees, even though normal campus life has disappeared, is matter of survival.
Of course, students have a strong case for asking for their money back. The lockdown isn’t to protect us. It’s largely to protect older people. Lecturers are trying to make Zoom classes work but students haven’t been able to use the libraries, laboratories and other key learning facilities. These matter – there’s a reason why UEA is building a new £65 million Arts and Humanities building, and it’s not just to decimate car parking spaces on campus.These facilities are a vital part of university education. Sadly most universities aren’t likely to budge on refunds. What’s more the Government is unlikely to step in and cancel our tuition fee debts – after all it’s trying to salvage the British economy. Poverty kills, and people can’t support their families if they don’t have jobs.
Morals are easy to put before money when you’ve survived an emergency. But right now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Are we going to blame other people for putting their interests above ours? Many of us are doing the same.In the end though, there is no easy solution and it’s likely we will all take a hit.