Letter: We are making a mistake by closing school again

Dear UBC and Santa Ono,

You are making a terrible decision to shut down again.

We paid full (sorry, if you didn't catch that: FULL) tuition for 18 months of joke school. Our lives collapsed. Our tangible education devolved into a mind-numbing waste.

We use the vapid euphemism "mental health" all the time, but we obviously have no idea what it means.

Now we're vaccinated, like you asked.

We went back for four months, packed in shoulder-to-shoulder onto the R4 and 99. We pretended it was fine, because goddamn, was it nice to be back. To feel some echo of direction again. To almost feel like real people. To almost stagger out of the horrific fact that thousands of hyper-social apes torched years of their lives.

A stellar focus on "mental health." Oh, yes.

Thanks for the counselling services. Yes, obviously that's the problem. If only we pay you for more student services. That's why I'm at UBC: for that sweet feeling of hemorrhaging money to feed a buzzing swarm of ridiculous programmatic ornamentation. Almost as nice as ticks.

We pay so much money to get educated. Most of us still believe that we are actually, somehow, still being educated. Some of us take out crippling loans that will leave our coming years in smoking financial ruin. We do that because we still believe. We try to believe.

Are we going to have to pay full price for an ersatz product? Do we again get to squander thousands of dollars and months of pseudo-life for the privilege of participating in insipid satire?

Please do not do this to us again.

I think I'll be able to handle it. I'm four months from escaping this rent-seeking dream world. But some of us won't handle it. ‘Mental health.’

"A place of mind."

At least refrain from continuing, unabated, to harvest dollars we do not have for our opportunity to feel like dupes and fools.

I would like to share an excerpt of a talk given by a UBC faculty member that I dearly respect:

"You might think of some of the phrases one hears about UBC, for example. Take the claim that it is ‘your’ education, or degree. This is often linked to the image of the university as a locus of ‘innovation,’ a “place of mind” that emphasizes ‘engagement,’ while fostering ‘community’ and ‘well-being.’ One of the more egregious moments was when the university announced that it was ‘here for us’ at the start of COVID[-19], but then told students to pay the normal tuition a few weeks later.”

“Meanwhile, despite the upbeat rhetoric, the UBC administration encourages faculty to be mindful of their ‘outcomes,’ a notion that turns us into machines of production. And we should all strive towards ‘excellence,’ while building a ‘university of excellence’ at UBC. What is university education really about, especially if it is increasingly expensive and online? Do we even understand teaching and learning, which are allegedly the cores of education?"

Look, I know some of you are really going to hate this. In so many ways this sentiment has become immoral. There are, after all, no breaks on the clandestine ideology of our time and its histrionic fixation on the veneer of safety.

There are other axes of wellbeing than physiological quantification. We've become so obsessed with metrics of safety that we have forgotten what health means. Just because you can't stuff it into a number and scare the populace with it does not mean it's not a mortal concern.

If we’re going to keep bringing our lives to a grinding halt should we not do so for climate change or nuclear disarmament? How about the epidemic of suicide and overdose deaths? If we’re going to keep slamming the brakes on life for that impossible idol of absolute safety, are we really going to get scammed in the process?

I am far from the only person who feels this way. If this resonates with you, consider trying to say something. Sign a petition, write to the school. If you think this is evil, please do not bother trying to argue in the comments. Everyone knows that is a spiritually destitute waste of time. Most likely this will do absolutely nothing. Worth a go, nonetheless. I’m too old and obstreperous to keep biting my tongue. I'm too old for this shit.

Imagine, as Nietzsche did, that you had to live this life again and again for eternity. Would you then choose to squander yet more time? Is there no better way?

Coby Derban is a philosophy student who is grateful to be in his final semester at UBC. His interests include continental philosophy, the question of human being and, grudgingly, the problem of suffocating epidemiological policies.