HackSoc
the computer science society

At the University of York

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The 2020 Fresher's Fair

September 01, 2020

YUSU have released a statement about how Freshers’ Fair will go forth this year. We have opinions.

Going into this academic year, during the current unprecedented times, we were, as a student society, aware that there would be sacrifices. Our new student takeup and retention were likely to be lower, our events more restricted, funding more difficult to come by, and many other considerations. We planned for these as best we could, and where we couldn’t make things work, we reformed them or cut them.

One of our biggest concessions to the current times has been, and will continue to be for quite some time, in-person events. Our society revolves around the knowledge and enthusiasm of our members, and our members’ willingness to involve others, both in our academic events and our social ones, and this is harder online than it is in person. In the end, however, the safety of the members of our society comes before our need for members, or our want for physical events.

Given our outlook, an outlook shared by other societies we’re sure, we were more than a bit shocked to see YUSU choosing to go ahead with plans for an in-person Freshers’ Fair. We were even more shocked to learn about the plans from York Vision, rather than from YUSU directly. It seems YUSU cares more about publicity than the societies it represents being well informed.

On face value the plans for an in-person Freshers’ Fair make reasonable accommodations for the current situation, and aim to protect freshers, which they do to a reasonable degree. Even going so far as to implement a track and trace system to deal with protection after the fact, as well as during. All of this is reasonable and, in isolation, a good solution. However, YUSU forgets a very important part of Freshers’ Fair, the societies.

The danger that YUSU’s planned physical Freshers’ Fair puts society committee members in is unacceptable. While students have relatively limited exposure and have the aforementioned accommodations laid out for them, society committees will be exposed to all students coming by their stall. By attending the physical Freshers’ Fair we would be exposing all our committee members households to potentially every student who passed through the event.

Any member of a committee who has attended a past fair will tell you that most, if not all committee members get freshers’ flu following the fair. Masks and disinfectant can only do so much, and this year would be no different. Except, of course, for the fact that this year freshers’ flu can be deadly. Normally we are willing to take an informed risk for those members who are okay possibly getting freshers’ flu, this year we are not.

Freshers’ Fair is an important event for our society, but we will not be attending it in person, and we would urge other societies to do the same. We are not willing to risk the wellbeing of our committee for the chance at gaining a few more potential members. We value our members more than we value the membership fees they may bring, as, we would hope, do all societies. Societies are, after all, groups for the betterment of our members. We hoped that the same was true of YUSU, it would seem not.